Can we meet the UN challenge to restore coastal wetlands by 2030?

As the UN declares the 2020s the ‘Decade of Ecosystem Restoration’, Professor Ivan Nagelkerken has collaborated with scientists worldwide to overcome the challenges of costal restorations.

Leading coastal scientists from all over the world have joined forces calling for unified action on the future of coastal ecosystem conservation and restoration.

This call comes in response to a declaration of 2021-2030 as the ‘Decade of Ecosystem Restoration’ by the United Nations General Assembly in March 2019.

Coastal ecosystems, including wetlands and coral reefs, are considered especially important in providing habitats for a wide variety of species, protect coastlines from erosion and capture significant amount of carbon.

However, coastal ecosystems face increasing industrialisation, loss of resources and climate change impacts, leading to steep declines of coastal ecosystems worldwide (for example, about 40 per cent of the world’s mangroves have been lost since the 1950s) –  this means restoration projects need to be effective on a large scale to bring them back to health.

Dr Nathan Waltham at James Cook University, led a group of 18 eminent coastal scientists from 8 countries, including Professor Ivan Nagelkerken from the University of Adelaide, in warning about the challenges facing coastal restoration and how best they can be overcome by the UN’s member nations.

Scientists are urging restoration practitioners to ensure they clearly define requirements and goals for their proposed projects, which will assist them in expanding past public funding and secure access to private capital. Building strong partnerships not just between disciplines but between science, government, industry, philanthropy and the public are also vital.

“We are trying to undo environmental damage spanning back centuries in some places,” said Dr Waltham.

“However, now we know that environmental problems are global and not just restricted to one area. Because of this we need coordinated and well-funded global action, and just maybe this declaration is the wakeup call needed towards improving and protecting productive coastal wetland ecosystems.”

Professor Catherine Lovelock from the University of Queensland said restoring coastal wetlands could help efforts to both slow and adapt to climate change worldwide.

“Restoring coastal wetlands can simultaneously address climate change mitigation through blue carbon projects as well as helping with adaptation to climate change,” she said.

“There is the potential for blue carbon projects to enhance the resilience of coastal communities, but everyone, from community groups to industry and government, have to get on board to make it happen.”

Professor Mike Elliott from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom said effective restoration projects could counter the ‘triple whammy’ facing coastal ecosystems.

“Coasts worldwide are having to cope with the ‘triple whammy’ – of increased industrialisation and urbanisation, of increased use of resources such as water, space and energy, and the decreased resistance and resilience to climate change,” he said.

“Environmental restoration is an integral part of dealing with the ‘triple whammy!”

The article has highlighted that relying on public funding as the sole source of investment for large scale restoration efforts will be very challenging.  Dr Chris Gillies, Program Director, Oceans at The Nature Conservancy, Australia, said “the private sector and investors can also play a big role in financing restoration efforts through sustainable finance models such as green or blue bonds, impact investment and offsets. Applying these market-based mechanisms allows investors and companies to contribute to restoration and UN Sustainable Development Goals whilst also making a financial return”

Dr Waltham said “The restoration Declaration is welcomed. It aligns with the stewardship of emerging movements toward the development of sustainable “blue economies,” “blue growth,” and “blue resources.  In the run-up to the Decade, we need to identify strong governance, and support from governments, beneficiary industries, corporations and communities. Strong financial business cases are needed, to incentivise and build confidence in restoration as we start to open the pipeline to government and private capital investment.”

Media release by Dr Nathan Waltham.






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