TRAIN#ER is an Erasmus + Project to identify training needs in Ecological Restoration in Europe
Have you ever seen an eroded slope, a river full of concrete, a drained peat bog, a forest full of invasive trees or a seabed with no life?
Those are degraded ecosystems, and the science and the practice of Ecological Restoration (ER) aims at recovering them as healthy and fully functional ecosystems. Many organizations are working to improve the practice of ER and Europe is on the brink of becoming the region with the most advanced law and most ambitious targets in relation to restoring its nature.
To prepare this article we had conversations with professionals working on the field of ER, who participated in the 13th European Conference on Ecological Restoration (SERE2022), or are involved in the TRAIN#ER project.
There is wide consensus of the need to improve the knowledge in ER among professionals. Astrid Brekke Skrindo, from Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) states that “there is a lack of understanding of the knowledge needs in ER in Norway”. Skrindo highlights that “ecological restoration is not fully understood among professionals, doing restoration sometimes, but destroying nature other times. There is a risk of even doing greenwashing if restoration actions are actually doing the opposite as what they claim for”. With focus at the European level, the TRAINER Project will shed some light about needs, good practices, types of training, and will allow to learn from projects across Europe. “We have some good things going on in Norway that we would love to share”, she concluded.
Practical training is also an important aspect in training in ER, as an applied discipline. “We need to improve the practical training of ecological restoration, including on-site examples, involving practitioners and also students”, explains Klára Řehounková, from the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice (Czech Republic). She also emphasized that more groups and different kinds of practitioners have the opportunity to engage in training in ER, especially farmers, industry and teachers.
This is why the TRAIN#ER Project aims at identifying the training needs to improve the practice of Ecological Restoration in Europe. Implemented by a consortium of eight organizations, it is led by the Society of Ecological Restoration Europe (SERE) with partners from Spain, Czech Republic, Norway and Germany. The Project includes five main activities: (1): European and national surveys, addressed to a wide range of organizations in the ER sector, to capture their training needs. (2) Focus Groups: meetings to discuss the current state of ER, its strengths and weaknesses and options for action. (3): The design of a Community of Practice, to share and learn on the practice of ER. (4) The outputs of the Project, including a set of recommendations for practitioners and educators in ER, and (5): Communication actions throughout the project, including social media.
Ecological Restoration is about healing the natural systems
In an interesting analogy between the practice of ER and human medicine: “Ecological Restoration aims at improving the health of ecosystems, as medicine does with human health”, according to a representative of DG Environment of the European Commission, who has been involved in the writing of the European Commission’s proposal for a Nature Restoration Law. He also mentioned that the practice of ER is a huge area in need of growth in the years to come.
Very encouraging statements about the law were also heard at SERE2022: “It’s the most ambitious law of its kind in the world”. The conference, which brought together a lot of professionals of restoration ecology from all over Europe, ended with a declaration of an even more ambitious EU Nature Restoration Law. This new law implies that all EU member states will have to improve training in ER, to be able to plan and put into practice restoration projects, in order to achieve the restoration targets of the law, which will be included in national restoration plans of all EU member states.
Also in the context of this law, Jordi Cortina, from University of Alicante and chair of SERE, emphasizes the need to critically uspscale the knowledge transfer in ER and quickly train new restoration practitioners: “we need to make sure that we have all these professionals in Ecological Restoration, like the medical sector, that we have all the specialties”. He adds: “it’s an immense challenge, as it has to be done at all levels: local, national and internationally”.
For more information about the TRAIN#ER Project and its activities visit: https://chapter.ser.org/europe/trainer/
You can also follow SER Europe in Twitter and the hashtag #ErasmusTRAINER
Robin Corrià – European chapter of SER (SERE)