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Building a holistic monitoring framework for ecosystem restoration

Blog | Sun, 31 Jan, 2021 · 7 min read
A forest in South Africa (credit: Unsplash)

Ecosystem degradation negatively impacts the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people globally, with severe implications on global GDP. Investing in ecosystem restoration has been proven to support livelihoods, provide large-scale economic stimulus for national economies and make significant contributions to biodiversity. In March, 2019, the UN General Assembly declared 2021 – 2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, aiming to restore degraded ecosystems on an unprecedented scale through a global restoration movement. The resolution highlights the major role restoration can play in achieving the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as several environmental initiatives, including the Paris Agreement and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Task Force on Monitoring

As co-lead for the Decade implementation, alongside the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and supported by the Rio convention secretariats and other relevant stakeholders, FAO launched a Task Force on Monitoring in March, 2020, comprised of individuals from key partner organizations including FAO, UNEP, CIFOR and IUCN. The task force is further supported by experts in terrestrial, aquatic and transitional ecosystems with an aim to develop a robust and flexible monitoring framework to better support restoration practitioners in monitoring and assessing ecosystem status. The task force has met consistently online over the past few months, making good progress with over 150 experts from 20 organizations. Broad participation in the process is ensuring a critical sounding board that builds synergies with relevant initiatives and frameworks, considers the latest data and technology and takes advantage of the tremendous efforts and energy that have already been poured into the development of monitoring systems in several sectors.

Progress on National Forest Monitoring Systems and REDD+ reporting (Forest Reference Levels and REDD+ technical annexes) has provided many lessons on catalysing country progress on monitoring. For example, of 65 UN-REDD Programme countries, 46 have submitted one or more Forest Reference Level to the UNFCCC, representing a significant proportion of tropical forests. This represents a critical step forward in forest monitoring capacity that, in turn, contributes to monitoring efforts under the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

Framework for Ecosystem Restoration Monitoring

The Framework for Ecosystem Restoration Monitoring (FERM) will enable the identification of indicators and will be made operational through a geospatial dissemination platform that measures the progress of restoration efforts at various levels across key ecosystems requiring restoration. It will enable country reporting and support restoration monitoring by people and communities. The FERM will also enable knowledge and technology transfer and capacity development for people, communities and countries. This will allow them to monitor their own restoration progress and build ownership and trust in restoration efforts. This further enables the reporting of quality information and supports effective and adaptive restoration actions. The FERM will ensure countries with different starting points will be able to utilize the framework to enhance their reporting, regardless of data or technical limitations. The framework is expected to be operational in 2021.

Building momentum

The task force has planned additional activities to support the development of the FERM. An expert workshop will be held in late 2020 to ensure that technology and innovation is capitalised in supporting ecosystem restoration monitoring. New tools and methodologies for restoration monitoring and planning are expected be built, using remote sensing technology including FAO’s Open Foris SEPAL platform. The tools will enable restoration actors to delineate project boundaries and source the latest data. The tools will be tested alongside country colleagues to ensure their efficacy for on the ground monitoring and connection to the geospatial dissemination platform.

The task force and its activities are progressing well, but much work remains before the framework is operational. The coordination team led by the FAO, in close collaboration with ecosystem experts, welcomes further contributions from restoration stakeholders and invites colleagues who are interested to contribute or join the initiative.


UN Decade website

Seminar on “Healthy ecosystems for healthy life: the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030