The United Nations recognized an initiative to mend South America’s iconic Atlantic Forest as one of ten pioneering efforts to revive the natural world. The UN’s recognition comes as part of the efforts to preserve the habitats of several endangered animals, including jaguar, as one of its inaugural World Restoration Flagships.
The Atlantic Forest announcement came as leaders gathered in Montreal, Canada for the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, where governments from around the world will agree to a new set of goals for nature over the next decade. Talks are expected to include a potential global target for ecosystem restoration.
These initiatives, which are eligible to receive UN support, funding or technical expertise, showcase how environmental advocates are mending damaged ecosystems across the planet.Human activity has significantly altered three-quarters of the Earth’s land and two-thirds of its marine environment, pushing one million species towards extinction, the UN said.
The Atlantic Forest, which straddles Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, is renowned for its variety of landscapes, which run the gamut from swamps to montane forests. However, centuries of intensive logging and agricultural expansion have threatened many of these ecosystems and the animals that live within them. The Atlantic Forest is home to the jaguar, the margay, and the black and gold howler monkey, all endangered species.
To save the forest, campaigners in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay spent three decades promoting species conservation, engaging local communities in their efforts, the UN said. A major effort included the restoration of important watersheds surrounding Sao Paulo, after the city was hit by a major drought. By 2050, the three countries are aiming to restore 15 million ha of degraded forest. Restoration work has already helped around 154 million people in the region by increasing job opportunities, food security and water provision. It is also helping communities contend with climate change, the world organisation said.
UNEP Executive DirectorInger Andersen said “World over, our forests are under siege. The restoration of the Atlantic Forest through engaging local communities is a powerful reminder that nature can heal when given half a chance and deliver tremendous benefits in the process.”
The Atlantic Forest and other flagship initiatives were selected under the banner of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global movement coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP) and theUnited Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is designed to prevent and reverse the degradation of natural spaces across the planet.
FAO Director GeneralQu Dongyu said: “FAO, together with UNEP, as co-lead of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, is pleased to award the 10 most ambitious, visionary and promising ecosystem restoration initiatives as 2022 World Restoration Flagships. Inspired by these flagships, we can learn to restore our ecosystems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind.”
RESTORATION FLAGSHIP AWARDS
The world restoration flagship awards are part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Countries have already promised to restore 1 billion hectares – an area larger than China – as part of their commitments to the Paris climate agreement, the Aichi targets for biodiversity, the Land Degradation Neutrality targets and the Bonn Challenge. However, little is known about the progress or quality of this restoration. Progress of all 10 World Restoration Flagships will be transparently monitored through the Framework for Ecosystem Restoration Monitoring, the UN Decade’s platform for keeping track of global restoration efforts.
UN DECADE ON ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION
The United Nations General Assembly has declared the years 2021 through 2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Led by the UN Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, together with the support of partners, it is designed to prevent, halt, and reverse the loss and degradation of ecosystems worldwide. It aims at reviving billions of hectares, covering terrestrial as well as aquatic ecosystems. A global call to action, the UN Decade draws together political support, scientific research, and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration.
TRINATIONAL ATLANTIC FOREST PACT
This World Restoration Flagship is coordinated by The Pact for the Restoration of the Atlantic Forest and the Trinational Network for the restoration of the Atlantic Forest. It receives support from 300+ partners, including Brazilian Society for Ecological Restoration, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, The Nature Conservancy in Brazil, World Resources Institute Brazil, World Wide Fund Brazil, WWF Paraguay, Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina and many other international and local organizations.