Restoring nature

Restoring nature is a vital strategy for building a resilient society. Restoration can contribute to carbon mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity conservation, and the sustainable delivery of ecosystem services that enhance human health, human-nature relations, and livelihoods. To be effective, restoration needs to be acknowledged as an investment in the future with long-term stakeholders engaged from the beginning.

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Significant recovery and long-term conservation

The loss of ecosystem integrity and biodiversity threatens our societies, economies, and the health of our planet. Yet many human activities damage, degrade and destroy the dynamic communities of plants, animals, and environment that we call ecosystems. For example, the replacement of species-rich grasslands with intensively managed monocultures of crops destroys existing ecosystems, while the spread of industrial pollutants damages food webs and disturbs the chemical balance of cropped and natural areas alike.

Ecosystem restoration is a powerful tool for conserving biodiversity, improving resilience, and building new social and economic opportunities. However, restoring ecosystems to pristine conditions is often not feasible or even desirable. Restoring nature is best viewed as a restorative continuum where the endpoint is not necessarily removing all human impact and innovative approaches can be used to restore biodiversity given contemporary conditions. Creating positive trends in different environments could start with restoring healthy soils, or with species (re)introductions, or creating more space for nature between and within intensively managed lands.


Co-creating new futures with restoration

Advancing ecologically healthy relationships between nature and culture is our goal. Therefore, understanding the interactions between social and physical worlds is critical to re-establish self-perpetuating, resilient, and multifunctional landscapes. The economic basis for conservation must also be transparently addressed from the beginning to ensure our interventions are optimised, fair and sustainable. Ecosystem restoration can be closely connected to social change, for example in restoring abandoned land into a healthy and vibrant space for people and nature. In this way, restoration can provide exciting opportunities to learn how to integrate different values and knowledge systems held within a community.

We each have responsibility proportional to our power.
Dr. Ir. Judith Westerink

Research demonstrates that rather than focussing narrowly on one objective, restoration stakeholders should connect across the landscape and its associated value chains to set clear and effective goals. The process is enriched if partners agree to learn together and respond flexibly to restoration dynamics over time. Such a local to national and global network can interact with both direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity change, thus addressing both the symptoms and root causes of biodiversity loss.


A restorative worldview

Technological developments in monitoring led by Wageningen researchers will support adaptive management of restoration activities in intensively farmed landscapes as well as those in more remote areas. Developing policy and governance tools, including improved decision support models, for policymakers assists restoration planning and supplies evidence of its effectiveness to a global audience. Transparently and equitable governance is especially important as local biodiversity initiatives become increasingly seen as offset products which can be traded (and funded) internationally.

Farmland biodiversity is very important in Europe. We must empower farmers to take care of our landscapes while shaping the agribusiness sector into a system that supports biodiversity.
Dr. Ir. Judith Westerink

Knowledge sharing and collaborative learning processes enhance the uptake of nature restoration initiatives by identifying successful roadmaps to success across vastly different economies and ecosystems. We work with business and research partners to create resilient ecosystems in practice, since such ecosystems form the basis of our natural capital and will create a liveable planet in the future. Explore some of our projects below to learn more.

Knowledge for nature restoration

Mansholt Lecture

We intensely interact with nature and the land via food systems – food production can be a catalyst for the transition to a nature-positive future. In this lecture we explore how to create a sustainable, just and fair transition for everyone.

Nature Inclusive Agriculture

Developing inspirational visions of what nature-inclusive agriculture could look like in the Netherlands, and how the public, the state and farmers can collaborate to create a more resilient food ecosystem.

Big data and remote sensing

Improved quality and quantity of environmental data – sourced from satellites to drones to field samples – can help make evidence-based decisions, model future changes and deliver near-real time biodiversity monitoring.

Natura 2000 Biogeographical Process

Natura 2000 is the largest network of protected areas in the world. Wageningen researchers enhance the effectiveness of the Natura 2000 programme with knowledge exchange, technical support and international cooperation.

Farming for Nature

Farmers are pivotal in the development of biodiverse, nature-inclusive agricultural landscapes. This project supports their role with the pilot of a pioneering, long-term farming for nature contract scheme.

Green Circles: Bee Landscape

Eco-profiling pollinator habitats and behaviours helps make optimal adjustments to the landscape to reverse the decline of wild pollinators.