SUPERB Welcomes Landmark Adoption of EU Nature Restoration Law: A Decisive Moment for European Ecosystems

After months of negotiations and deliberations, the Council of the EU formally approved the Nature Restoration Law on Monday, 17 June, aiming to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 and all degraded ecosystems by 2050. To SUPERB coordinator Elisabeth Schatzdorfer, Principal Scientist at the European Forest Institute, this is a “decisive moment that marks the adoption of the most important legislation in decades to push broad-scale restoration of European ecosystems”.

Forests play a prominent role in the new legislation. In addition to Article 4, which establishes requirements for restoring degraded habitats into good conditions (30% of Natura 2000 areas by 2030, 60% by 2040 and 90% by 2050), Article 12 is dedicated specifically to the restoration of forest ecosystems. It defines a set of concrete indicators to enhance and monitor forest biodiversity, such as standing and lying deadwood, share of forests with uneven-aged structure, forest connectivity, among others. Additionally, the new law determines that Member States contribute to the commitment to plant at least three billion trees at the EU level by 2030 through sustainable afforestation, reforestation, tree planting and increasing urban green space.

Debates on how to best implement and monitor the new law will continue”, said Schatzdorfer. According to her, the application of existing evidence and science-based knowledge will be key in ensuring restoration measures are effective, delivering the expected benefits to biodiversity and society. “The SUPERB project is best equipped to support decision-makers and the development of national restoration plans from now onwards because we understand the breadth of socio-ecological restoration challenges and societal needs around forests”, she said.

Based on ample interdisciplinary expertise and insights from its 12 demonstration areas, SUPERB provided important feedback to previous versions of the adopted text in the form of a Policy Brief. Recommendations included advice for legislators and policymakers to focus on the adaptive capacity and future conditions of forests in light of climate change, and adopt a flexible monitoring approach with customisable indicators based on national or local demands.

Findings accrued by SUPERB will continue to be conveyed to the scientific community, politicians, restoration managers and forest owners, thereby enabling the successful implementation of the new legislation. In particular, the upcoming SUPERB Forest Ecosystem Restoration Gateway, to be launched in 2025, will compile project learnings in an accessible way through a range of materials, such as good practice guides and modelling and decision support tools, delivering science-based support and guidance to a variety of users in the years to come.