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United Nations Declares 2021–2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

Posted in Environment on April 8, 2019 by Brian Boom

Brian M. Boom, Ph.D., is Vice President for Conservation Strategy at The New York Botanical Garden.

Photo of coastal forest
Atlantic Coastal forest of Brazil, where 95% of the original forest has been destroyed or degraded.

Last month, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2021–2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. As the UN announcement emphasized, this declaration will provide unparalleled opportunities for job creation, food security, and addressing climate change, all of which are intertwined, vitally important concerns for the future of human society and of all life on our planet. In a recent post, I wrote about the notion of a botanical approach to mitigating global warming through a concerted, coordinated effort of ecosystem restoration, for which Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy argued elegantly and persuasively in his recently published book Biodiversity and Climate Change: Transforming the Biosphere

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which the Society for Ecological Restoration applauded in a statement, will provide a multilateral framework to give a botanical approach to mitigating global warming a much-needed public boost and hopefully a substantial financial investment. But how much ecosystem restoration would it take to really make a difference in terms of mitigating global warming? An encouraging answer was provided in a recent research paper presented by global change ecologist Dr. Thomas Crowther at the 2019 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

According to Dr. Crowther’s research, destroyed or degraded forest ecosystems in the world could accommodate 1.2 trillion new trees and this many trees could absorb more carbon than people put into the atmosphere annually. The implications of these calculations should invigorate nations around the world to take action on ecosystem restoration as a viable approach to addressing climate change, with the added benefits of creating jobs and securing our food supply. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration could lead the way forward.

Image of the #plantlove logoThe world urgently needs the massive ecosystem restoration efforts envisioned by the United Nations, but individuals and communities can be part of the climate change solution in their own neighborhoods by planting and caring for trees and other plants and by embracing #plantlove NYBG is helping people see, know, and save plants in 2019 through its exhibitions, programs, and projects. Join us in spreading the #plantlove!  Among the April offerings is the symposium Nature at Your Doorstep: Celebrating the Public Participant in Research and the many events on National Citizen Scientist Day and Earth Day Weekend.