EU Biodiversity Strategy: Call for nature restoration

Scientists and NGOs present policy papers.

Based on a media release by Rewilding Europe

This year, the EU will take decisions that have far-reaching consequences for Europe’s people and nature. A new set of policy papers outlines why restoring nature should be made a priority in the new EU biodiversity strategy. According to the papers, restoration of nature, based on rewilding principles, is one of the best ways to tackle our current climate and biodiversity emergencies.

“We have to take the great opportunity to allow more nature and wilderness in Europe – for enhancing biodiversity conservation and human wellbeing,” says Néstor Fernández, scientist at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). “It is now up to EU policymakers to ensure that this happens across Europe.”

New tools

The policy papers published today describe the research analysing the degree of ecological degradation of European landscapes. They also propose priority corridors that need to be restored to meet the goals of biodiversity European policies. The study was led by iDiv and MLU researchers Dr Néstor Fernández and Prof Henrique Pereira, in partnership with Rewilding Europe, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, the WWF European Policy Office, the European Environmental Bureau. It is the culmination of a three-year programme to promote and strengthen Europe’s biodiversity conservation agenda.

A new policy brief, entitled “Boosting Restoration for a Wilder Europe”, focuses on a series of maps. These maps help to identify priority areas for landscape-scale nature restoration across the EU, thus helping to establish critical new connectivity between Europe’s “Natura 2000” sites. Integrating a range of different data sets on biodiversity and human impacts on the landscape, the maps aim to inform and guide European policymakers at all levels as they plan and deliver nature recovery.

A fragmented, impoverished landscape

By illustrating the ecological integrity of European terres¬trial landscapes, the new maps showcase the serious degradation of wild nature across much of the continent, impacted by factors such as infrastructure construction, intensive agriculture and forestry, and the disappearance of naturally occurring, large-bodied animals.

The maps show that areas of Europe where nature is relatively intact are frequently small-scale and isolated, which often leads to further biodiversity decline. This problem is made worse by the absence or unnaturally low presence of large-bodied animals – such as European bison or bears – which are unable to play their unique role in European ecosystems. According to the authors, this further diminishes the functions and benefits those ecosystems could and should be providing.

The role of rewilding

Rewilding, the long-term recovery of ecologically complex ecosystems with lower human intervention, enhances the wide range of benefits that nature gives all Europeans – from clean air and water, carbon sequestration and fertile soil, right through to flood protection, climate change resilience and enhanced health and wellbeing.

Despite the widespread degradation of European landscapes, wild nature is slowly recovering of its own accord in many areas. This is further promoted by abandonment of less productive lands – a trend that will likely continue in much of Europe for many years. According to the paper authors, this can be seen as an opportunity for policies aimed at recovering landscapes where natural processes play a far greater role in restoring wild nature and natural values.

Original publication (policy brief):

(scientists with iDiv affiliation and iDiv alumni bold)

Fernández, N., Torres, A., Wolf, F., Quintero, L., Pereira, H.M. 2020. Boosting Ecological Restoration for a Wilder Europe. Making the Green Deal work for Nature. ISBN 978-3-9817938-5-7. LINK

Policy recommendations:

https://www.rewildingeurope.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/europe-needs-large-scale-restoration-for-nature-and-climate/index.html

/iDiv Public Release. The material in this public release comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.