National Forest Monitoring

Advancing ecosystem monitoring during the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration


On the 18th December, the Task Force on Monitoring for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration met online to review the progress made since its launch in March, and to plan for what’s to come next. The Task Force has cultivated a strong network by engaging restoration practitioners and experts from around the world, to discuss, brainstorm and test methods for monitoring, laying the groundwork for the development of a holistic monitoring system aiming to track restoration actions and to inspire further political will – both of which are critical to the success of the UN Decade, set to run from 2021 until 2030.   

Members of the Task Force comprise an ever-increasing number of representatives from over 80 organizations, including UN bodies, NGOs, government agencies, academia, and restoration practitioners from around the world who share experience and contribute to the collective development of a Framework for Ecosystem Restoration Monitoring (FERM). The FERM aims to build on existing reporting systems under multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). This will help avoid duplication and additional reporting burden for parties. Crucially it will build on and learn from years of work such as that of the Rio and Ramsar Convention Secretariats.  

Director of the Forestry Division of FAO, Mette Wilkie, said “we need to build synergies between existing conventions and the Decade. Technology is developing fast and our knowledge and understanding of ecosystem monitoring is expanding every day. More precise and more transparent monitoring means more ambitious restoration targets being set.”

Team Leader of National Forest Monitoring of FAO, Julian Fox, emphasised that “this isn’t about creating further reporting burden for countries, rather, it is about finding the synergies and the redundancies of effort, to strengthen both our monitoring capacities as well as our collaboration”.

Representatives from the secretariats of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in turn presented their current and future monitoring and reporting frameworks, as part of the attempt to find synergies between reporting under these major international environmental conventions and the future reporting under the Decade.

The first challenge of the Task Force, and one that has been a focus of its 2020 efforts, has been to understand how these conventions, and the existing indicators and data can help to track the progress of restoring ecosystems, and how ecosystem restoration efforts can in turn contribute to climate mitigation, sustainable livelihood development and the conservation of biodiversity.

Jillian Campbell from the CBD Secretariat spoke about how we can learn from past experiences and the challenge to meet targets set out in the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. She said “we monitor to find out whether we are on track, whether the commitments being made are going to be enough and if efforts are not sufficient, strategizing how we can close that gap.”

Sara Minelli of the UNCCD Secretariat said “land degradation manifests in many different ways, there is no one mechanism, so there is no one mechanism of ecosystem restoration, which is why it’s difficult to define a comprehensive global approach, rather we need to focus on fundamental measurable variables such as land cover.”

Peter Iversen of the UNFCCC Secretariat said “in the Paris Agreement, parties commit to conserving and enhancing carbon sinks through forests and other ecosystems, so there is a lot of synergy to be found between achieving the climate targets and ecosystem restoration.”

The importance of sharing data was also highlighted for its role in reducing duplication of efforts and helping to strengthen and cross-pollinate efforts. Maria Rivera from the Ramsar Convention Secretariat highlighted that the next reporting on Ramsar targets will happen in early 2021, so fresh data will be available as input to the monitoring framework of the UN Decade.

The final part of this meeting featured the presentation of the 2021 workplan of the Task Force. It was acknowledged that with ongoing efforts such as forest and landscape restoration, and global and regional initiatives such as the Bonn challenge and AFR100, the terrestrial biosphere seems to have been the focus of most monitoring to date. This new UN Decade provides an opportunity to strengthen and enhance our global efforts on monitoring of aquatic, marine, transitional and other less represented ecosystems.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration will officially launch on the 5th World Environment Day on the 6th June 2021. In the lead-up, the Task Force will continue building on existing work and indicators, filling gaps, and strengthening collaboration and inclusivity of efforts – to enable robust and transparent restoration monitoring.

For the latest update on the progress of the Task Force on Monitoring the latest briefing note is now available at here.