This is the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which calls on everyone to work together to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide. While the Humber Arboretum is not an official partner or a member of the Decade's Implementation Hub, we fully support and promote the urgent need to become #GenerationRestoration and recognize that during these ten years "every action counts."
In March of 2019 the United Nations General Assembly officially proclaimed 2021 to 2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration "with the aim of supporting and scaling up efforts to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide and raise awareness of the importance of successful ecosystem restoration."
Using the hashtag #GenerationRestoration, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration officially launched on World Environment Day, June 5, 2021.
To understand ecosystem restoration, you first need to understand the parts of an ecosystem. Biotic components are all of the living organisms within an ecosystem, ranging from microbes and moss to turtles and trees. Abiotic refers to the non-living components, everything from physical elements such as rocks and water to non-living factors such as temperature and sunlight. When we talk about an ecosystem, we are referring to all of the interactions and interconnections between a community of living organisms and the physical space they live in.
Healthy ecosystems are based on a careful balance of many different organisms and elements. This does not mean that a healthy ecosystem does not change; the gradual transition of an ecosystem is often a natural succession. For example, over many years a pond may fill with sediment and turn into a meadow, while a meadow may fill with trees and turn into a forest. But this is very different from ecosystem degradation, which is when an ecosystem begins to lose its ability to function properly due to outside pressures, usually caused by human action. Degradation often comes from a slow build-up of impacts that are hard to notice at first, such as road salt building up in freshwater streams, visitors compacting the soil in a natural area, or the increase of temperatures due to the climate crisis. In other cases an ecosystem is quickly destroyed rather than degraded, such as when a forest is cut down due to urban sprawl.
Ecosystem restoration means taking action to remove pressures causing degradation or to undo damage that has already been done. The UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration is also about taking action to prevent damage in the first place. While tree planting may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ecosystem restoration, it is far from the only solution (and won't be the right solution for every ecosystem, anyway!). Thinking globally and acting locally on ecosystem restoration will require a diverse group of people with a diverse set of skills.
Here are just a few examples of actions you can take:
For Humber College students and faculty, it's worth noting the many connections between the ecosystem restoration and the Humber Learning Outcomes (HLOs).
Systems Thinking and a Sustainability mindset are key to understanding the ecological issues, while Critical Thinking done through a lens of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion will be integral to the success of what needs to be a global effort.
Some of the best solutions may come from innovative practices and strategic problem-solving. Executing restoration efforts will require leadership, communication, and collaboration.
If you would like assistance incorporating ecosystem restoration into your curriculum, feel free to contact the Humber Arboretum with your ideas.
The restoration and ongoing stewardship of natural areas is major focus of Humber Arboretum, and is connected to our strategic plan priorities of supporting thriving nature and healthy communities.
Here are some of the special projects and ongoing efforts which are underway at the Arb:
The Humber Pond Revitalization Project aims to improve water quality, create and enhance wildlife habitat, and provide new gathering spaces and learning opportunities. Started in 2019, this ambitious collaboration draws the on the strengths of the Humber Arboretum's three managing partners, Humber College, the City of Toronto, and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.
A large section of the Humber Arboretum was designated an Environmentally Significant Area (ESA) by the City of Toronto because of the rare plants found here. We work with our partners to protect this space and restore the native ecosystem.
In 2019 Humber Arboretum staff began efforts to revive the demonstration Pollinator Garden in front of the Centre for Urban Ecology (CUE). New plantings and maintenance activities are ongoing at the Tranquility Bird Garden, built in partnership with Birds Canada. Both of these spaces show how native plants can be used in private gardens to create habitat for local wildlife.
The UN Environment Program is using #GenerationRestoration as the hashtag for the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration so you can follow the movement online and share your own ecosystem restoration efforts.
Also be sure to visit the official UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration website to learn more and find other ways to get involved.