Landscapes that are rich in biodiversity and have functioning ecosystem services provide us with clean air, fresh water, food and fuel, and protect us from the worst effects of floods and storms. They give us inspiration, enjoyment and improve our wellbeing. Yet landscapes across Europe are under threat, and have been degraded through intensification of forestry and agriculture, urbanisation and expanding transport infrastructure. This has led to widespread habitat loss and fragmentation, endangering Europe’s landscapes and the biodiversity that depends on them.
While preservation of the biodiversity-rich places that remain is undoubtedly important, this will not be enough to meet ambitious conservation targets set out in national and international policy. A more proactive and progressive approach is also needed, one which seeks to restore biodiversity and natural ecosystem processes to Europe’s landscapes.
Economic, political and social changes throughout Europe are providing opportunities to adopt such an approach. In addition, the uptake of ecosystem restoration at the landscape-scale reflects a growing recognition of the many and varied benefits provided to people by a healthy natural environment, as well as opportunities for rural regeneration, sustainable livelihoods and the instilling of pride in culture and local traditions.