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  • Transcriber: TED Translators Admin Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs

  • (Birds chirping)

  • What you're hearing

  • is the sound of a native forest in Southern Europe.

  • The calm, tranquil feeling we all get is not a coincidence.

  • We all evolved in ecosystems like this,

  • where the sounds of birds and insects

  • indicated the possibility of food, medicines

  • and all the resources we need for survival.

  • Ecosystems and their biodiversity still hold the key to life on this planet.

  • I'm obsessed with this biodiversity,

  • the magic of the infinite network,

  • where every species depends on others to survive.

  • For most of my career,

  • I focused on just one of those fascinating connections

  • between insects and fungi in the soil.

  • I longed to understand the scale of these networks

  • and to understand how they might help us

  • with one of the greatest challenges facing humanity:

  • our rapidly warming planet.

  • The problem is clear.

  • We know we need to reduce our emissions

  • and draw the existing carbon out of the atmosphere,

  • stop the damage and start the repair.

  • And this is where forests can help.

  • Like all plants, trees capture carbon from the atmosphere,

  • and they use it for growth.

  • And some of that carbon enters the soil,

  • where it can stay for hundreds or even thousands of years.

  • If we could stop the losses of forests around the world,

  • we could directly help to cut our annual emissions.

  • And if we could start to tip the balance in the other direction,

  • we might even help the repair process.

  • But if people were really going to invest their valuable time and energy

  • in a solution like this,

  • we needed to comprehend the size of this opportunity

  • and understand the impacts that we can have as individuals.

  • But comprehending something of this scale

  • was a completely new challenge for me and my colleagues.

  • For this, we needed the knowledge of experts all over the world.

  • So we began building a new network.

  • The more people we contacted, the more data we received,

  • and the more clearly patterns began to emerge.

  • With data from over 1.2 million forests,

  • we were able to build new machine learning models

  • to predict forest structure around the world.

  • For the first time,

  • we could see that our earth is home to just over three trillion trees,

  • almost half of what existed before human civilization.

  • We could see where the different species are distributed

  • and how carbon is stored in this massive system.

  • But this approach could also show us something more transformative.

  • Using the same models, we could begin to see where trees might naturally grow

  • under the existing climate.

  • And this suggested

  • that outside of urban and agricultural areas,

  • there's 0.9 billion hectares where trees would naturally exist.

  • And this is room for just over one trillion new trees.

  • We estimated that if we could protect these areas in the long term,

  • then the soils and vegetation

  • might capture up to 30 percent of the excess carbon in the atmosphere,

  • capturing decades of human emissions.

  • We now have a wealth of ongoing research to refine these initial estimates.

  • But the scale of this potential

  • suggests that along with all the other benefits these ecosystems provide,

  • they might also represent a valuable role in our fight against climate change.

  • When our research was accepted to be published in the journal Science,

  • nothing could have prepared us for the media explosion that followed.

  • Suddenly, it seemed like the whole world was talking about the potential of trees.

  • Under the umbrella of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration,

  • the World Economic Forum launched their Trillion Trees Campaign

  • to go alongside similar efforts from the WWF and United Nations.

  • Suddenly, governments and companies all around the world

  • were pledging their commitment to the restoration of earth's forests.

  • And with the job creation that would result,

  • the idea of a global restoration movement was becoming a reality.

  • But in the excitement of it all,

  • and with the chance to make that positive impact I'd always dreamed of,

  • I made some naive and stupid mistakes in communication

  • that threatened the entire message.

  • The simplicity of our message was its strength,

  • but it came at the expense of nuance that is so important.

  • And as the headlines began to emerge,

  • I desperately just wanted to pull them back in.

  • Because to some, it seemed like we were proposing restoration

  • as the single solution to climate change.

  • And this is the opposite of what this movement needs.

  • When viewed through this lens,

  • restoration just seems like an easy way out,

  • a chance for us to "offset our emissions" by planting a few trees

  • and ignore the very real and urgent challenges of cutting emissions

  • and protecting the ecosystems that we currently have.

  • Restoration is not a silver bullet.

  • There is no silver bullet.

  • It is just one of a huge portfolio of solutions

  • that we so desperately need.

  • And this view of trees as an easy way out is such a tempting perspective,

  • but it is a real threat to the climate change movement

  • and to the ecosystems that still remain.

  • (Faint sounds)

  • This is also the sound of trees.

  • It's a eucalyptus plantation

  • that exists just a couple of miles away from where we began.

  • Notice how there were no sounds of birds or insects.

  • The songs of biodiversity are gone.

  • That's because what you're hearing is not an ecosystem.

  • It's a monoculture of one single tree species

  • planted for rapid tree growth.

  • Along with the biodiversity that used to live here,

  • this local community has now lost the benefits those ecosystems provided,

  • like clean water, soil fertility,

  • and most urgently,

  • protection from the intense fires that now threaten the region every summer.

  • The UN suggests that almost half of reforested areas around the world

  • are monocultures just like this,

  • planted for rapid timber production or carbon capture.

  • Just like a farm, these plantations may be valuable for timber,

  • but they are not the restoration of nature.

  • And monocultures are just one of the many ways

  • we can damage ecosystems

  • when we offset our emissions without considering the local ecology

  • or the people that depend on it.

  • Following these mistakes, a second wave of articles flooded in,

  • warning of the risks of restoration done wrong.

  • And this criticism was so painful

  • because it was entirely correct.

  • But most of all,

  • I was terrified that we would squander this incredible opportunity,

  • because restoration has such enormous potential for positive impact.

  • But just like every good idea, it only works if we get it right.

  • But as the dust settled,

  • we realized that this was actually a time

  • when the entire movement gained real momentum.

  • More people than ever were interested in global restoration,

  • and with messages flooding in

  • about the successes and failures of restoration projects around the world,

  • we had access to the lessons that can help us to get it right.

  • Every new criticism offered incredible opportunities to learn and grow.

  • Every failed restoration example

  • was a lesson on how to improve future projects.

  • These learnings were an entirely new source of data --

  • data from the real heroes of this movement,

  • from the people on the ground

  • who were conserving and managing ecosystems around the world.

  • No one knows their ecosystems more,

  • and no one is more aware of the risks of restoration done wrong

  • and the need for accurate ecological information

  • to show the best areas to focus on,

  • which species can exist in those regions,

  • and what benefits those species can provide to the community.

  • Historically, these are questions that have been addressed

  • through years of rigorous trial and error.

  • But we started wondering:

  • What if we fed this deep on-the-ground knowledge

  • back into our machine-learning models

  • to learn from the thousands of successes and failures?

  • Could this help us to identify

  • which strategies are working and failing around the world?

  • And about a year ago, we started working with Google

  • to help build and scale this idea into a functioning online ecosystem,

  • where projects from around the world can learn and grow together.

  • By pairing Google's technology and our models,

  • this ever-growing network of scientists, restoration projects, and NGOs

  • could now build the platform that could serve the restoration movement.

  • And I am so excited to give you a first glimpse

  • of what we've been working on.

  • This is Restor, an open data platform for the restoration movement,

  • providing free ecological insights

  • to show which species of trees, grasses, or shrubs might exist in that region,

  • monitoring of projects

  • so that we can all see the developments happening on the ground.

  • And most importantly,

  • for the sharing of ecological information

  • so that restoration organizations can learn one another

  • and so that funders can find and track projects to support.

  • Restor is a digital ecosystem for restoration.

  • The more data the community uploads, the stronger the predictions get

  • and the more informed action we can all take.

  • Putting the learnings of thousands of projects

  • into the hands of people everywhere.

  • And this ecosystem is much bigger than just planting trees.

  • Trees are just the symbol for entire ecosystem restoration.

  • Restor is for the protection of land so trees can recover,

  • for the amendment of soil so vegetation can return,

  • and for the thousands of other approaches used

  • to promote the health of grasslands, peatlands,

  • and all other ecosystems that are equally important for life on earth.

  • Whether you want to support a wetland conservation project

  • with huge carbon potential

  • or simply find which species of plant might exist in your garden

  • and how much soil carbon they could accumulate,

  • with this tool,

  • we hope that everyone everywhere

  • will have a chance to engage in the restoration movement.

  • The word "restore" is defined

  • as the act of returning something back to its original state,

  • but it's also the act of returning it back to its original owners.

  • The restoration of nature is for the local biodiversity

  • and the communities that depend on it.

  • And as that network grows, the collective action benefits everyone.

  • And these benefits go far beyond the threat of climate change.

  • Even if climate change stopped right now,

  • the protection and rebuilding of earth's biodiversity

  • would still be a top priority because it underpins all life on earth.

  • It can help us with all other global threats,

  • including extreme weather events, droughts,

  • food shortages and global pandemics.

  • But global restoration won't be easy,

  • and it will not be solved by tech solutions alone.

  • These tools can inform us,

  • but ultimately the challenge is one that can only be addressed by us,

  • by all of us.

  • Just like the interdependent species that make up natural ecosystems,

  • we humans are deeply dependent on one another.

  • We need the immense network of limitless connections,

  • the farmers and project leaders on the ground

  • who need local markets and industries to make use of sustainable products.

  • The scientists, governments, NGOs, businesses, you, me,

  • we are all needed to keep this movement going.

  • We need the whole ecology of humanity.

  • Thank you.

Transcriber: TED Translators Admin Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs

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B1 restoration biodiversity movement carbon ecosystem soil

The global movement to restore nature's biodiversity | Thomas Crowther

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/02
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