Restoration & Degradation

What is restoration?

Landscape degradation reduces the ability for a landscape to provide the essential services for both humans and biodiversity. By regreening degraded land, ecosystems can again produce ecological functions vital for nature and resource production, restoring lands to their original form that in turn rebuilds ecological balance and enhances rural livelihoods. Land restoration involves incorporating a large variety of techniques and interventions aiming to restore the whole landscape in order to provide key ecosystem services again for both current and future generations.

Why is it necessary?

Approximately 25% of the world’s land area is degraded (FAO, 2011b). To counter the effects of natural and human-induced degradation to ecosystems, restorative interventions can be applied to depleted landscapes to halt and counter this degradation. Restoration potentially brings degraded areas back to life. Yet, it is a complex and multifaceted process which aims to safeguard a balance in socio-ecological considerations. For example, by restoring fertility to the soil, both yields and greenhouse gas storage capacity can improve, providing opportunities for livelihood diversification, and thus offering an alternative source of food and income.

Choosing the right intervention technique is crucial for the eventual benefits resulting from restoration. Even more, it is location-dependent and has to fit the landscape characteristics. This is where Greener.LAND offers you a helping hand. Greener.LAND is an interactive, online tool created to shed more light on restoration and its importance for re-establishing ecosystem functions. Greener.LAND provides specific and technical insight into 25 restoration interventions. Based on the terrain, land use type and environmental characteristics, this overview can be modified through filters that narrow down the results to restoration measure(s) that fit your specific landscape. Graphics, pictures, and videos are also provided to visually support each intervention description.

Causes of Degradation

Landscape degradation is the decline in productive capacity of both natural ecosystems and agricultural land that is currently being faced worldwide (WHO, n.d.). Threatening biodiversity, socioeconomic growth, food security and climate resilience, land degradation tends to occur as a result of physical disturbance to soil and vegetation. It is caused by either natural events, such as extreme weather and water, or by human-induced forces, for example, agricultural tillage and pollution. Deforestation, desertification, soil erosion, loss of productivity potential, biodiversity loss, water shortage, and soil pollution are ongoing processes associated with landscape degradation (Stanturf, 2021; 125). As emphasized during the UN Decade on Restoration, there are three ways to counter degradation: prevent, halt or reverse (UNEP, n.d.).

Some main causes that affect the 4 main types of landscape are outlined below:

Landscape Type Natural Causes Human-induced Causes
Agricultural

– Extreme weather events (causing drought & flood)

– Desertification (result from human deforestation)

– Increased disease pressure

– Unsustainable farming practices, e.g., pesticide & insecticide (over)use, slash and burn technique, diversion of water sources, over-grazing and -cultivation)
Pasture & rangeland

– Extreme weather events (storms & tornadoes),

– Invasive flora and fauna,

– Lack of apex predators to restrict damage from herbivores

– Over-grazing and -cultivation,

– Degraded soil quality & salinity from contaminated water sources

– Urbanization

Forest

– Extreme weather events (drought, flooding)

– Forest fires

– Deforestation (e.g., fishbone effect, illegal logging)

– Forest fires

– Exploitation of desirable resources

Coastal

Extreme weather events (cyclones and storm surges)

Invasive species (from human introduction or climate-related causes)

– Marine pollution, contaminated runoff, and salinity,

– Overfishing

– Ship-related destruction to ecosystems