Report - Scaling Up Ecosystem Restoration Webinar

On the 28th September 2020 a set of 9 incredible speakers, and over 160 attendees, gathered online for a powerful and informative webinar discussing the pressing issue of ecosystem restoration. 

The event gathered Australian and International speakers to share, celebrate and showcase the importance of scaling up restoration as we enter the United Nations declared Decade of Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030).  

The webinar is now available for you to watch below! 

There has never been a more urgent need to restore damaged ecosystems. Forests, grasslands, heathlands, wetlands, savannahs, and other terrestrial as well as marine ecosystems are all in dire need of restoration.

Protection of biodiversity, provision of meaningful employment, and the health and wellbeing of people and planet were some of the primary benefits of ecosystem restoration expressed during the webinar. 

Some of the key topics that were raised include: 

  • The need for strong advocacy to raise awareness of restoration practices as a requisite for reversing biodiversity decline
  • The need to share information and increase community literacy of Australia’s long-term history of environmental change, as a means of developing a better understanding of our landscape today
  • The need to decolonise land management and embrace indigenous practices 
  • Assisting governing bodies in recognising ecosystems as vital ‘infrastructure’ 
  • Creation of greater funding avenues and meaningful employment opportunities 
  • Recognition of a continuum of restorative activities and the acknowledgment of the value of all actions aimed at improving ecological health
  • While protective and remediatory activities are important in contributing to the wellbeing of our planet, a rapid scaling up of ecological restoration is essential for the next decade, and well beyond, to reverse our current trajectory
  • The critical role of local communities – large scale restoration needs the wisdom, ingenuity and tenacity over time of local leaders, who can operate in a nuanced and tailor-made way
  • Ecosystem restoration can have significant benefits for human health
  • The need to be brave and experiment with new restoration ideas and techniques

Speaker Highlights:

Todd Dudley, president of Tasmania’s North East Bio Regional Network (NEBN), and event organiser, spoke on some of the projects undertaken by NEBN, such as restoring Skyline Tier, the largest restoration project undertaken in Tasmania. Todd also spoke on the integral role ecological restoration can play in creating meaningful employment that provides workers with physical and mental health benefits. View Todds images here. 

Paddy Woodworth, author of Our Once and Future Planet, joined from the early hours of the morning in Ireland. Speaking on the need for greater awareness of the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) Standards in scaling up ecological restoration projects, especially the need to engage with local communities and to base restoration on appropriate native reference ecosystems. You can view Paddy’s presentation here. 

James Aronson, echoed Todd Dudley’s affirmation of the dual health benefits of ecological restoration, both for our biosphere and for people. He elaborated on the various ways that ecological restoration and related activities influence and potentially enhance physical, mental, immunological, and social health and well-being of human communities. He also argued that ecological restoration represents a key bridge-builder between conservation and sustainable economic development programs and paradigms.

In the second part of James’s talk, he introduced the exciting new Four Islands Ecohealth Network initiative, and showed examples of their work. ‘Four Islands’ the first regional network of EcoHealth Network, a global action network to assist restoration projects and programs to combine restoration work with public health research, interventions, and outreach. View James' presentation here. 

Dr. Tein McDonald, shared her expansive work co-authoring and implementing the National Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration in Australia. President of the Australian Association of Bush Regeneration Dr. McDonald is also a board member of the Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia (SERA). 

Tein’s presentation focuses on the content and importance of the Australian and International SER Restoration Standards. Major points included that the Standards documents clarify the ‘what, why and how’ of ecological restoration and are important to guide mandatory and non-mandatory environmental repair at any scale. Effective ecological restoration depends upon broadscale action from all governments and communities to reduce the causes of degradation, particularly climate change.

Keith Bradby of Gondwana Link prioritised the need to decolonise land management and embrace indigenous practices alongside the importance of understanding the mindset of large scale restoration, “large geographically, large in time”. You can view Keith's presentation here.

Mark Bachmann of Nature Glenelg Trust shared the optimistic prospect of restoring health to degraded corners of our planet, “We have a chance to reverse that trend [200 years of large scale postcolonial environmental change], and repair our amazing continent.” 

Mark has applied his experience in restoration ecology to specialise in wetland restoration, working with land managers across all land tenures, but also creating several permanent restoration reserves which are now owned and managed by NGT as demonstration sites. 

Peter Stronach of Landcare Tasmania championed the underpinning role local communities play in restoration projects. Rich in knowledge of the land, their pride of place and connections to one another as well as the land makes the support of small community groups invaluable. 

Dr Anita Wild, restoration ecologist, shared her exciting results of the recently completed ecological scoping study on the restoration of Tasmania’s Lake Pedder.  The study found that benefits from restoration would include a re-instatement of complex and diverse aquatic environments that, in the long term, would benefit fauna such as platypus. There is also evidence of ecological resilience and vegetation recovery on peat soils if areas are dewatered; and the key to restoration is maintaining these peat and organic soils. Some ecological risks to the project were identified, including losing organic soils through wave action or wildfire in the initial restoration phases. View Anita’s Presentation here. 

Gary Howling, executive director of the Great Eastern Ranges, highlighted the initiative's ambitious project of connecting, protecting and restoring 3600km’s of habitat steaming from Victoria to far North Queensland. Gary also spoke on and the impacts, both negatively and ecologically beneficially, the summers devastating bushfires has had on the project. 

Distance preventing a social post event cuppa, the webinar was informally continued for a further half an hour with speakers openly discussing arising questions, theories and strategies for upscaling restoration which was thoroughly enjoyed by 90+ keenly engaged participants. 

A huge thanks to the MC, Christine Milne A.O, former Vice President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), former leader of the Australian Greens Party and current Global Greens Ambassador.  Christine took up the role of Co-Convenor of the Lake Pedder Restoration Committee in the lead up the United Nations Decade of Ecological Restoration (2021-2030) to campaign for an agreement by the summer of 2021-22, to restore Lake Pedder and surrounding environs.

Learn more about the speakers' work:

Todd Dudley, North East Bio regional Network 
Paddy Woodworth, Author of Our Once and Future Planet  
James Aronson, Global Eco Health 
Dr Tein Mcdonald, SERA National Standards and SER international Standards
Keith Bradbury, Gondwana Link
Mark Bachmann, Nature Glenelg Trust 
Peter Stronach, Landcare Tasmania 
Dr. Anita Wild, Restoration of Lake Pedder  
Gary Howling, Great Eastern Ranges 

Further Reading 

James Aronson
Mark Bachmann

A huge thanks to everyone who made this event a possibility, and to those who attended!  This decade can look forward to a co-ordinated, collective scaling up of ecosystem restoration for the benefit of life on earth!