Something to shout about for nature, wildlife and entire ecosystems - on 27th February the European Parliament adopted the trilogue agreement on the Nature Restoration Law
This agreement is a major step forward for natural systems - the majority of MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) voted positively, showing they had listened to the calls of over 1 million citizens, businesses, scientists and NGOs, and in doing so have paved the way for this first-of-its-kind law to become a reality. 
The new law – a key pillar of the EU’s contested Green Deal – sets a target for the EU to restore at least 20% of its land and sea by the end of this decade. By 2050, that should rise to cover all ecosystems in need of restoration. It’s not been an easy ride – the European parliament finally gave the go ahead to a watered-down law to restore nature, after weeks of fierce protests from farmers and a last-ditch attempt from rightwing parties which threatened to jeopardise the deal. The law, which must be approved by the EU Council before it comes into force (anticipated to go through by April this year), calls on member states to restore at least 30% of drained peatland by 2030 and make progress on indicators of agriculture biodiversity that include increasing the number of grassland butterflies and farmland birds. Environmental groups praised the outcome of the vote, which was passed with a majority of 329 to 275. 
The Restore Nature Coalition made up of BirdLife Europe, ClientEarth, European Environment Bureau and WWF EU issued a joint statement: “We are relieved that MEPs listened to facts and science, and did not give in to populism and fear-mongering. Now, we urge member states to follow suit and deliver this much-needed law to bring back nature in Europe.” 
Rewilding – an integral part of nature restoration strategy – can be contentious, in particular when large predatory species are part of the mix. In the UK a plan to bring back wolves and lynx has been put forward which could help restore forests by keeping roe deer and rabbit populations in check. Scotland and Northumberland have been proposed as suitable locations for wild lynx, which were last seen in Britain more than 1,000 years ago. However, there has been significant push back and a recognition that it would be challenging. The well-known explorer and broadcaster Ray Mears has said “We don’t have vast tracts of wilderness in the UK, more of a broken landscape made up of urban conurbation and farmland”, concluding that Britain was not ready for such rewilding schemes, despite the potential ecological benefits. 
The poster child of the approach has to be the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park in the USA in 1995, after 70 years without this native predator. The bold strategy has resulted in unanticipated and extraordinary change in Yellowstone’s ecosystem and even its physical geography. The process of top to bottom change throughout the entire food chain is called a trophic cascade, and the park has documented numerous ways in which the area has been revitalised. The deer population, which had grown exponentially resulting in the park’s vegetation being grazed to destruction, have changed their behaviour. With the top predator re-established they don’t graze as much and move around more, aerating the soil. 
As a result of the deer’s changed eating habits, grassland areas regenerated and trees in the park grew to as much as five times their previous height in only six years. The new and bigger trees provided a habitat for songbirds and copious berries for bears to eat. The healthier bear population killed more elk, further contributing to the ecosystem life cycle. Enhanced trees and vegetation also allowed beaver populations to flourish. Their dam building habits provided habitats for muskrats, amphibians, ducks, fish, reptiles, and otters. 
Wolves also kill coyotes, thereby increasing the populations of rabbits and mice. This creates a larger food source for hawks, weasels, foxes, and badgers. Scavengers such as ravens and bald eagles fed off of larger mammals' kills. 
Perhaps most surprisingly, the land itself has been restored to health. Soil erosion was causing massive instability along the riverbanks, but with elk damage reduced and more healthy well-established vegetation the banks are strengthened and remain in place. The wolves have actually changed Yellowstone’s physical geography. Given the chance, nature will rebalance; this law should create a positive lever for entire ecosystems to thrive again.  
JS Global is Official Business and Nature Finance Advisor to the Global Biodiversity Standard 
Share this post:

Leave a comment: 

Our site uses cookies. For more information, see our cookie policy. Accept cookies and close
Reject cookies Manage settings