The UN general assembly has designated 2021 – 2030 as the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. NINA has extensive experience of research in, and the implementation of, restoration in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats.
It is no longer sufficient to protect nature – there is also a need to restore what has been degraded. Ecological restorations are actions to improve the ecological condition and values of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. Mitigation and compensating measures can also be part of restoration.
Land degradation and habitat destruction are the major threats to nature and biodiversity, but still these activities continue globally, including in Norway. Ecosystem restoration is essential to reduce, stop and then to reverse the negative trend. This has been clearly stated in reports from the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Based on this, the UN has designated 2021 – 2030 as the Decade of Restoration.
Can nature be restored?
Restoration can never replace intact nature, or be used as an excuse to destroy existing natural areas. However, restoration can prepare the way and improve the prospects for ecological processes, and for species and habitats, to recover in degraded areas. In a broad sense, restoration can be defined as all the efforts and actions that contribute to improving an area towards being less degraded.
Classic restoration interventions are those aimed at areas that used to be degraded by infrastructures or cultivation, such as filling ditches in peatland or removing roads in the mountains.
Another category of restoration projects are those which aim to restore populations of endangered species. One method is through breeding programs, followed by planting or release of the new individuals into the target area. At NINA, scientists have used this method for restorations of Dune tiger beetle (Cicindela maritima), freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera), and arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) among others. Another method is translocations of plants or animals from places where they are not threatened, to places where they are rare or extinct. For example, NINA has worked with colleagues in Scotland and in Ireland to reintroduce the white tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) from Norway to both those countries, where it was previously driven extinct.
Mitigation activities in development areas can contribute to limiting negative impacts on ecosystems, for example though removing weirs or establishing spawning habitat in regulated rivers, and establishing new vegetation on temporary roads in construction areas. In urban areas piped rivers and brooks can be reopened and made available for species in and along the watercourse. NINA has been involved in the planning and implementation of a number of such projects, in collaboration with many companies and organisations in industry and the public sector.
NINA performs both applied research in restoration, and active on-site restoration. It collaborates widely to develop successful restoration programmes.
The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) is Norway’s leading institution for applied ecological research, including ecosystem restoration. We are experienced in both applied research in ecological restoration, and in carrying out restoration programmes. Much of NINA’s research provides the background knowledge necessary for successful restoration now and in the future. Ecosystem restoration is a broad topic, and involves a range of sciences, actors and professions. The majority of NINA restoration projects are therefore multidisciplinary in nature, biologists and ecologists working together with social scientists and economists. Our researchers also work in collaboration with managers, land-owners, authorities, local user groups, industry and contractors.