The Decade on Ecosystem Restoration: How can we succeed as restoration scientists through knowledge sharing?

In recent years, it has become clear that ecosystem degradation is a severe issue that affects the environment and people globally, and ecosystem integrity must be restored wherever possible. To promote and upscale restoration efforts globally, the United Nations designated the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Yet effective ecological restoration requires reliable and sound ecological knowledge to restore degraded landscapes, their biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services. Ladouceur et al. (2022) highlighted that knowledge and data sharing is set to play a crucial role in helping restoration ecologists to understand restoration outcomes. They also emphasized that the predictive capacity and effectiveness of restoration activities should be increased if up to 350million ha of degraded land are to be restored effectively in the current decade. A general lack of monitoring of restored sites, coupled with a need for more meta-analyses, syntheses, and comparisons across different biomes and habitats, means there is much scope for compiling and centralizing ecological restoration data and projects.

The authors outlined that synthesizing information on restoration and its outcomes is essential for understanding generality and variability in restoration globally, and  for maximizing  the use of restoration monitoring efforts and data. Despite open-access tools becoming increasingly commonplace, there are still huge amounts of data that could be made accessible and contribute to shared learning across projects. Knowledge sharing should be a priority for the restoration community. This simple mission could help to create stronger interdisciplinary and professional partnerships. However,  there are currently few standards and outlines to guide and support such sharing in restoration science.

While incentives can be produced to motivate researchers to share knowledge and data openly, practitioners need different incentives to share their knowledge and collaborate with scientists. Ladouceur et al. (2022) argued that sharing tools and approaches is essential to advancing understanding of the variation in ecological outcomes across ecosystems and identifying successes and unsuccessful outcomes.  

The authors support open and integrated restoration knowledge sharing, as this could help to test and improve fundamental theoretical questions and encourage restoration approaches to advance theoretically and in practice. Knowledge sharing could directly funnel knowledge to restoration policy and decision-making and promote an open knowledge culture within restoration ecology. To meet the goals of the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, knowledge sharing, synthesis, and interdisciplinary partnerships are required.

Ladouceur et al. (2022) outlined four steps that could be taken by restoration ecologists and scientists to promote knowledge sharing. These are synthesized as: publishing restoration project results no matter the outcome and exchange this knowledge; contributing raw data and metadata to open-access global data repositories; registering restoration projects with the Society for Ecological Restoration Project Database to share work; and finally, to promote funding opportunities for restoration science and long-term, large-scale restoration project monitoring.

This paper was co-authored by Vicky Temperton, Head of the Institute of Ecology, associated with the Social-Ecological Systems Institute, in the faculty of sustainability at Leuphana University Lüneburg.

Read the full paper by Ladouceur et al. (2022) here.

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