West Coast
J.L. Sousa / Napa Valley Register

CA - 3 Critical Lessons California Offers to Improve Restoration of Land on a Global Scale

2021 presents opportunities for decisive and positive action, including the launch of the United Nations’ Decade on Ecosystem Restoration which reinforces the importance of healing degraded ecosystems around the world before it’s too late.

It gives us great hope to know that California is committed to leadership through investment and sharing lessons learned from decades of experience.

Our diverse ecosystems, abundant natural resources and a mild climate have helped attract millions of residents and developed California’s world-class economy. Sadly, our approach to economic progress has imperiled our unique wetlands, grasslands, rivers and mountain meadows – natural assets directly responsible for purifying and storing our drinking water, sequestering carbon, providing recreational opportunities, supporting diverse wildlife habitat and so much more.

To take just one example, California has lost more than 90% of its wetlands since the arrival of European settlers. Wetlands play an increasingly crucial role in absorbing excess water and protecting coastal and inland communities from flooding. They also provide critical habitat for wildlife, including a variety of species found nowhere else on Earth, some of which are at risk of blinking out of existence.

The organizations we lead, River Partners and Point Blue Conservation Science, have decades of experience studying, planning, implementing and evaluating restoration projects around the state. Together, we’ve identified three critical lessons California has to offer the world to improve restoration on a global scale:

First, all restoration needs to be “climate smart.” We can’t aim to simply restore landscapes and habitat corridors to how they once were. We need to prepare them for climate extremes. That means, for example, using drought-hardy plants to prepare for drier years ahead.

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