Each week, One Earth will be featuring a webinar recap from organizations and scientists around the world that focus on important topics such as biodiversity, conservation, food justice, and the intersections of environmental and human health.
One of the most promising solutions to land degradation is restoration. Seeming so simple, yet more than 2 billion hectares of land have been deforested or degraded globally. The Global Landscapes Forum organized a digital conference that focused on how restoring these areas can make significant contributions to climate mitigation, job creation, and reducing threats to biodiversity. In one panel, Peter A. Minang from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), moderated a discussion on how forest restoration directly helps reverse the effects of the climate crisis.
With in-the-field case studies, lead scientists from around the world broke down their research with evidence that reclaiming forest landscapes reduce C02 levels, which fights climate change, and improves the surrounding quality of life. Susan Cook-Patton and her team at the Nature Conservancy, focused their work on natural forest regrowth. This included studying how fast nature recovered after human disturbance left an area and developing a robust map of carbon accumulation rates that show how mitigation potential varies across specifics landscapes. They found that 8-10 gigatons of carbon per year could be removed from the atmosphere if natural land restoration could be deployed at a large scale.
Tor-Gunnar Vågen, Senior Scientist and head of the GeoScience lab at World Agroforestry, has been working for fifteen years on mapping degradation and restoration progress around the world, but most notably in the Afrotropics. With ground monitoring, systematic field sampling, and local knowledge, they took in data on vegetation cover, land disturbance, forest management, and soil health. Houria Djoudi, Senior Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), presented her findings from a case study located in Burkina Fasco, a country in Africa right in the middle of the Sahel, or biogeographic transition region where the Sahara meets the savanna. She looked at different restoration measures in the region and how they affected gender equality, income shares, food security, and carbon assessments. In both, Dr. Vågen and Dr. Djoudi’s studies, restoration with biodiversity at its forefront was the main factor in having the healthiest ecosystem, most carbon capture, and greatest improvement in quality of life.
Each of these researchers presented positive evidence on how land restoration is key to solving climate change. Paul Elvis Tangem, the Coordinator of the Great Green Wall Initiative, then spoke about how this data can now be used for action. The Great Green Wall is an African-led initiative to plant and grow an 8,000 km line of trees across the entire width of Africa. With 15 percent of it completed, it is the “best example” of how policy makers, international developers, research institutions, activists, and local communities can come together to make large land restoration projects a reality.
“Nature based solutions are long term solutions that we really need,” said Tangem. We have the data, real life examples of successful massive nature conservation efforts, and not only the framework to negotiate these projects with policymakers like the Paris Climate Agreement, but also have social networks to communicate with each other and demand action as the public. “All of us must come together” if we are to make restoring nature a key part of our fight against climate change.