Request > Restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem services

Is missing knowledge hampering the effectiveness of approaches that aim to restore biodiversity and ecosystem function and services?

Requester: BiodivERsA

Type of request: Knowledge Synthesis
This request aims to understand why current approaches to restoration are not as effective as possible. Gaining a better understanding of the limitations to effective restoration can provide evidence to support more effective investments in restoration. This knowledge can also support stakeholders from wide-ranging fields, with the outcomes being to reduce landscapes’ degradation. Reduced degradation provides opportunities to improve climate resilience and mitigation, improve food security and improve human well‐being.

Reference: Request CfR. 2/2017/2

Expert Working Group
  • Judith Fisher (Fisher Research Pty Ltd/University of Western Australia) (Chair)
  • Jordi Cortina-Segarra (Society for Ecological Restoration Europe)
  • Miriam Grace (School of Biological Sciences University of Anglia, UK) (member of the MEG)
  • David Moreno Mateos (Basque Centre for Climate Change)
  • Patricia Maria Rodriguez Gonzalez (University of Lisbon)
  • Prof. Susan Baker  (Sustainable Places Research Institute – Cardiff University)
  • Jan Frouz (Charles University, Prague)
  • Agata Klimkowska (Eco-Recover Ecosystem Restoration Advice / University of Antwerp ECOBE)
  • Pilar Andres (CREAF/Autonomous University of Barcelona)
  • Apostolos Kyriazopoulos (Democritus University of Thrace)
  • Dr. Craig Bullock (School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy – University College Dublin)
  • Simo Sarkki (Oulu University, Finland)
  • Isma Garcia-Sanchez (Departement of ecology, University of Alicante, Spain)
  • Javier Porras Gómez (Basque Centre for Climate Change, Leioa, Spain)
Contact points
  • KCB Focal Point: Claudia Basta and Julliette Young
  • Secretariat Contact Point: Jorge Ventocilla

The global literature scoping review identified three Key Barriers to effective restoration as:

  1. The lack of a long‐term monitoring of restoration outcomes.
  2. The lack of a clearer definition of goals and planning.
  3. The need for better research methodologies.

with the Key Enabling factors being:

  1. Use of appropriate and well‐tailored restoration techniques.
  2. Societal integration with the restoration project.
  3. Success assessment and evaluation.

The four Key Groupings of Barriers identified in priority order by the Delphi process were:

  1. Insufficient funding.
  2. Low political priority for restoration.
  3. Conflicting interests of different stakeholders.
  4. Lack of integrated land use planning.

During the Delphi process Experts identified key solutions to overcome these Barriers (1‐4) above. Taking into consideration all the findings of our work, recommendations to overcome the barriers have been provided and grouped around the key groupings of barriers:

  1. Resourcing and Incentives – make restoration possible.
  2. Policy – make restoration count.
  3. Society – make restoration a preferred option.

4. Knowledge ‐ make it into life‐long learning, link, network and facilitate use of knowledge.

Target 2 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 states that “By 2020, ecosystems and their services are maintained and enhanced by establishing green infrastructure and restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems”.  The findings of the mid‐term review of the European Union Biodiversity Strategy (2015) highlight that for Target 2 “Progress has been made on policy and knowledge improvement actions under this target, and some restoration activities have taken place in Member States. However, this has not yet halted the trend of degradation of ecosystems and services. National and regional frameworks to promote restoration and green infrastructure need to be developed and implemented” (Lammerant et al. 2013). The European Union Biodiversity Strategy is the only policy document that contains a direct and quantitative target for restoration. However, many other European Union level policies, including the Birds and Habitats Directives, the Water Framework Directive, and the Common Agricultural Policy, relate to restoration aims indirectly.

Besides, this request’s topic has gained high policy relevance and importance following the approval of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021 to 2030), by the General Assembly on the 1st March 2019. This initiative aims to promote the restoration of degraded or destroyed ecosystems globally as a means of combating the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss and increase food security and water supply. This offers an unprecedented opportunity from the European perspective to implement the findings from this Report, to advance restoration effectiveness across Europe in response to increasing global pressures to scale up restoration actions. Therefore, the outputs of the request aim to be used by DG ENV to feed into the following policy processes:

The Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES)

Green Infrastructure Working Group.

  • Date request received: 02/10/2017
  • Call for Knowledge: 12/01/2018
  • Call for Experts: 06/06/2018
  • Date of experts selection: 12/07/2018
  • Date of kick-off EWG meeting: 26/07/2018
  • Date of the first meeting with the requesters and EKLIPSE KCB and methods experts: 15/12/2017

The requester was BiodivERsA, a network of national and regional funding organisations promoting pan‐European research on biodiversity and ecosystem services and offering innovative opportunities for biodiversity conservation and sustainable management. This request’s objective is to focus on constraints or barriers to effective restoration, including the identification of knowledge gaps restricting restoration approaches and actions, appropriate methodologies, optimal management, and effectiveness of interventions. It is not restricted to a specific type of restoration or ecosystem (Ockendon et al., 2018).

Scoping phase

The initial request focused on the identification of knowledge gaps on ecosystem restoration, asking, “Is missing knowledge hampering the effectiveness of approaches that aim to restore biodiversity and ecosystem function and services?”. To refine the request, EKLIPSE carried out scoping activities:

  1. Call for Knowledge (CfK) to identify already existing work on the request: it resulted in seven contributions from experts from Spain, Sweden, Czech Republic, UK and France, and the identification of relevant publications.
  2. Evaluation of the policy and stakeholder relevance via bilateral telephone interviews and email requests.

After scoping, the final formulation of the request is: “What is hampering the effectiveness of existing approaches that aim to restore biodiversity and ecosystem function and services”. This allows for knowledge gaps as well as other factors to be considered. Therefore, this request requires input from the social sciences and ecological research needs, pointing to the fact that some of the gaps will relate to research. In contrast, others will point to impediments to the use of existing knowledge, including a lack of awareness of that knowledge.

It was recognised that there are specific ecosystems (e.g. marine) for which there are more knowledge gaps (e.g. ecological) than others (e.g. grasslands). However, from a policy perspective, it may be useful to use a general approach to all MAES ecosystem types followed by some case studies focusing on knowledge gaps specific to ecosystem services (e.g. pollination) or ecosystem types. This request is relevant to restoration across Europe, including the EU’s Overseas Countries and Territories.

The Document of Work (DoW) described the results of the scoping activities and the background of the request and was the basis for the call for experts.

Answering the request

Selection of an Expert Working Group (see above)

Following the Call for Experts (CfE. 2/2017/2), the Expert Working Group (EWG) were selected. Twelve experts formed the group from 8 European countries (Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom and one non‐European Country, Australia).

Methods Protocol (file. 03/03/2019)

During its preliminary discussions, it was recognised the importance of understanding the key ecological, social, governance, legislative, economic, financial, technical, cultural and political barriers that may hamper effective restoration. For this reason, the EWG decided to run two parallel approaches to the widest view of the issue within the time frame and resources available. Restoration, when approached effectively, incorporates many domains. The EWG aimed to ensure that the report tackled the Request to cover as wide a range of sectors and disciplines as possible, thus avoiding problems often created by silo thinking and approaches. The two parallel and complementary approaches employed were:

  1. Literature Scoping Review: provides information on the attention given to this topic in the scientific literature
  2. Delphi process: provides direct access to a wide range of actors, including academics, practitioners, policy makers and others’ perceptions on the main barriers hampering ecological restoration in the EU.

The two approaches were conducted in parallel and designed so that the results were complementary to each other. The Eklipse Restoration EWG agreed on a draft in early November 2018. This document was open for public consultation among peers for comments until December 2018


The expert group completed their draft report, which was opened for consultation through an external expert review and public consultation.

In February 2020, the final report was published.