Silva Mediterranea

Over 90 years of Mediterranean forest management

Assessing Costs and Benefits of Ecosystem Restoration:

a New Initiative to Scale up the Restoration of Degraded Ecosystems

Ecosystem restoration has the potential to generate several social, environmental and economic goods and services. As such it is often mentioned as a proven measure to fight climate change, enhance food security, improve water supply and quality, and protect biodiversity.

Estimates suggest that the restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded land between now and 2030, under the Bonn Challenge, could generate USD 9 trillion in ecosystem services and 13 to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. However, financing restoration activities has been hindered, among other reasons, by insufficient and inadequate estimates of costs and benefits for many regions and biomes.

FAO, in collaboration with other partners and international organizations - the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD)/Forest Ecosystem Restoration Initiative (FERI), Bioversity International, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)/Forests Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) program of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Tropenbos International, WeForest, World Resource Institute (WRI) - is implementing a new initiative to collect data on costs and benefits of ecosystem restoration. It is a global effort that will draw together scientific research and results on the ground to demonstrate to both donors and politicians that financing ecosystem restoration is not simply a cost; rather, under certain conditions, it is a worthwhile investment that can bring multiple benefits and can help achieve multiple development goals. The ultimate objective of this initiative would be to offer a reference point for the estimation of costs and benefits of future ecosystem restoration projects in all major biomes and across a wide range of contexts worldwide, based on information taken from comparable past projects on which data has been collected through a standardized framework. The first output from this initiative would be a consistent and reliable database on the costs and benefits of ecosystem restoration that facilitates further analysis and decision-making in all major biomes and in different contexts.

This being said, there is an urgent need to constitute a database/clearing house and provide information and decision-making tools which donors, investors, project implementers, governments, and other stakeholders can use and consult for reliable cost and benefit data to then use for their decision-making processes when it comes to ecosystem restoration.

The database would be constituted through a standardized framework for the survey of costs and benefits that will be channeled by all participating organizations to project managers, landowners or project implementers on the ground. In an initial phase in 2019-2020 the framework will be developed and road-tested through current projects by partner organizations in the Sahel region.

Once developed, tested and refined, this standard framework would aim to serve as a reference, to be used broadly and promoted by supporting donors, investors and a wider range of stakeholders.

This initiative on assessing the costs and benefits of ecosystem restoration was presented during the 6th Mediterranean Forest Week and the 14th session of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF14), Even if initially developed in the Sahel, the collaboration with experts and institutions operating worldwide in various biomes will be encouraged.

The ambition is that this initiative will help scale up restoration from successful pilot initiatives to areas of millions of hectares and to make good practices become common practices. The timing looks good: FAO and UN Environment are leading the recently adopted UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration that will massively scale up the restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems and accelerate existing global restoration goals, and this initiative on costs and benefits of ecosystem restoration is an opportunity to respond to the call by the international community to put ecological restoration at the forefront of national and international agendas.

 Valentina Garavaglia - FAO

last updated:  Wednesday, June 12, 2019