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BU study a highlight of World Environment Day

3 June 2010

Water droplet Research shows the economic and environmental benefits of ecological restoration

Research into the benefits of biodiversity conservation co-authored by Bournemouth University Professor Adrian Newton is being used by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to mark the importance of World Environment Day (5 June).

The UNEP report ‘Dead Planet, Living Planet: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration for Sustainable Development’ draws on thousands of ecosystem restoration projects world-wide and showcases over 30 initiatives that are transforming the lives of communities and countries across the globe.

A section of the report entitled ‘Ecosystem Resoration for Biodiversity Conservation’ focuses on the research published in the leading journal Science by Professor Newton together with BU colleague, Dr Anita Diaz, James Bullock of the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Professor José M. Rey Benayas from the University of Alcalá in Spain who is also President of the International Foundation for Ecosystem Restoration.

The research shows that ecological restoration in areas of environmental degradation can help reverse global biodiversity losses, as well as promoting recovery of ecosystem services. However, the paper also shows that measures of biodiversity and ecosystem services are higher in pristine land, freshwater and marine systems than in restored systems. Examples of ecosystem services include improved water quality and increased carbon storage, services which benefit human well-being.

The research team analysed results from 89 restoration assessments carried out in a wide range of ecosystem types across the globe. On average, ecological restoration increased provision of biodiversity and ecosystem services by 44% and 25% respectively. Increases in biodiversity and ecosystem service measures following restoration were positively correlated. However, values of both remained lower in restored than in intact (undamaged) reference ecosystems.

Professor Newton, an environmental conservation expert from BU’s Centre for Conservation Ecology and Environmental Change said: "These results highlight the importance of ecological restoration approaches for addressing the environmental degradation that has occurred in many parts of the world. The research suggests that restoration can offer a 'win-win' solution, by increasing the provision of environmental benefits to people, while at the same time increasing biodiversity."

The research was partly supported by the ReForLan project, an international initiative involving researchers from six countries, funded by the EC and co-ordinated by Professor Newton. The project focuses on the ecological restoration of native forest in dryland areas of South America to examine whether such restoration might be cost-effective, when the value of different ecosystem services is taken into account. The potential impacts of ecological restoration on biodiversity are also being explored.

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