MERI celebrates UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration launch

The Manchester Environmental Research Institute (MERI) has hosted an interactive event to celebrate the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a worldwide initiative that aims to bring focus to ecosystem restoration and resilience.

On 7 June 2021 MERI gathered over 60 participants from a range of backgrounds to hear about the restoration projects - in which it has played an active role - and to delve into the range of benefits that nature restoration can yield, from improving biodiversity to sequestering carbon, to benefiting local communities and economies.

The first half of the event focused on scale; tackling restoration locally, regionally, and internationally. Dr Joanne Tippett started the event by talking about her work developing a National Nature Reserve in Wigan, before Dr Emma Shuttleworth discussed her work on peatlands in the Peak District, and Professor Richard Bardgett talked through his work on soil restoration in Africa and Tibet.

Dr Joanna Tippett: Towards a post-industrial National Nature Reserve in Wigan

Dr Emma Shuttleworth: Restoring the peatlands of the Peak District

Professor Richard Bardgett: Harnessing ecological knowledge to restore degraded grasslands

The second half was a panel discussion on 'Restoration in Practice', with panellists taking a look at the restoration projects they have been involved in, and discussing the factors that make restoration projects successful.

Panellists included:

  • John Sanders, Strategic Planning Director at Mersey Rivers Trust
  • Dianna Kopansky, Coordinator of the Global Peatlands Initiative in the Biodiversity and Land Management Branch at UN Environment Programme
  • Tim Thom, Peat Programme Manager at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
  • Dan Abrahams, Lead Adviser on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) at Natural England

Key messages from the discussion were:

Evidence - the right questions need to be asked and a strong knowledge base established before starting a restoration project. It is important to share when a project goes well, and, importantly, when it doesn't so that lessons can be learnt.

Co-creation - it is always preferable to design and introduce restoration projects with communities and local stakeholder involvement. Ecosystem restoration is about people, so they need to be on-board and taken with the project.

Engagement - We cannot do this on our own. Successful projects engage people, and their involvement needs to be part of the design from the outset. It is important for the community to feel a sense of ownership and that project information is conveyed in a common language.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is about people. It's about activating and we can't do this on our own. We need to go out and start to speak with people in a way that speaks to their heart and tells them stories about the environment they live in.
Dianna Kopansky, Coordinator of the Global Peatlands Initiative in the Biodiversity and Land Management Branch at UN Environment Programme

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