Restoring the Unrestored: Strategies for Restoring Global Land during the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (UN-DER)

Related GLP Member: Purushothaman Chirakkuzhyil Abhilash, PhD

Abstract

Restoring the health of degraded land is critical for overall human development as land is a vital life-supporting system, directly or indirectly influencing the attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs). However, more than 33% of the global land is degraded and thereby affecting the livelihood of billions of people worldwide. Realizing this fact, the 73rd session of the UN Assembly has formally adopted a resolution to celebrate 2021–2030 as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (UN-DER), for preventing, halting, and reversing degradation of ecosystems worldwide. While this move is historic and beneficial for both people and the planet, restoration of degraded land at different scales and levels requires a paradigm shift in existing restoration approaches, fueled by the application of applied science to citizen/community-based science, and tapping of indigenous and local knowledge to advanced technological breakthroughs. In addition, there is a need of strong political will and positive behavioral changes to strengthen restoration initiatives at the grassroot level and involvement of people from all walks of life (i.e., from politicians to peasants and social workers to scientists) are essential for achieving the targets of the UN-DER. Similarly, financing restoration on the ground by the collective contribution of individuals (crowd funding) and institutions (institutional funding) are critical for maintaining the momentum. Private companies can earmark lion-share of their corporate social responsibility fund (CSR fund) exclusively for restoration. The adoption of suitable bioeconomy models is crucial for maintaining the perpetuity of the restoration by exploring co-benefits, and also for ensuring stakeholder involvements during and after the restoration. This review underpins various challenges and plausible solutions to avoid, reduce, and reverse global land degradation as envisioned during the UN-DER, while fulfilling the objectives of other ongoing initiatives like the Bonn Challenge and the UN-SDGs.