Welcome to the latest edition of The Marine Biologist magazine, in which we celebrate the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030). This year promises much for nature as the UN's Gabriel Grimsditch explains in his introduction to this special edition on page 15. The first set of targets under Sustainable Development Goal 14 (the ocean SDG) will be due, and 2020 also marks the announcement of the UN Decade on Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
Marine ecosystems are by their nature less accessible than those on land, and with much of the ocean being global high seas, it is harder to manage activities than it is for the terrestrial environment, which at least falls under national jurisdiction. Direct restoration interventions are therefore limited to coastal and shallow water ecosystems, and in this edition we look at mangroves, coral reefs, oyster beds, seagrass beds, and estuaries through the lens of ecosystem restoration. The restoration of remote, open-ocean, and polar ecosystems is a task that we must tackle collectively by agreeing radical reductions in unsustainable use of resources and emissions of greenhouse gases (see article by Chris Reid).
The UN can mobilize resources to enhance commitments and actions at all scales to restore ecosystems. If we are to protect and restore nature by 2030, clear, communicable, measurable, and science-based global targets will be needed and workable mechanisms must be put in place for implementation. As the decade unfolds, we will bring you updates on ecosystem restoration efforts.
The vision for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration includes the phrase: ‘the relationship between humans and nature is restored’. Here, I think our own imagination has a major role. We imagine our world into reality, but, as Rob Hopkins argues in his book From What Is to What If, many aspects of our developed, industrialized society actively erode our imagination, leaving us with impoverished or dystopian visions of what the future holds. Initiatives such as the UN decade and the Commonwealth Blue Charter can shift our collective ideas of what can be, enabling us to envision futures that are more equitable, and that work with the grain of nature. Such shifts can be powerful drivers for change. Hopkins quotes Susan Griffin: ‘let us begin to imagine the world we would like to inhabit’. I would love to hear what your future marine world looks like.
As always, I invite you to send me your views and comments on the magazine or on marine life in general. If we receive enough letters and emails we can publish them here—so do put pen to paper and start a conversation!