Implementing Nature-based Solutions for Resilience in the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration
The UN General Assembly declared 2021–2030 as the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, taking a leadership role in finding nature-based solutions to restore vital ecosystems around the globe and combat climate change. It is targeting widespread engagement with governments, UN agencies, non-government organizations, academia and large corporations. WSP provided feedback for The Decade strategy report and is advancing its objectives through a robust environmental policy, planning and design practice. Further, active support for ecosystem restoration is embedded in WSP’s overall sustainability plan, and in 2020 WSP joined Business for Nature’s “Call to Action” to reverse biodiversity loss.
The initiative, and WSPs supporting practice, aim to scale up the restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems as a proven measure to fight the climate crisis and enhance food security, water supply and biodiversity. Key objectives of the initiative include: — Showcasing successful government-led and private initiatives to halt ecosystem degradation, restore already degraded ecosystems — Enhancing knowledge exchange on what works and why, and how to implement restoration at scale — Connecting initiatives in the same landscape, region or topic, to increase efficiency and impact — Connecting restoration opportunities and businesses interested in sustainable production and impact investment — Bringing more actors on board by demonstrating the importance of ecosystem restoration to conservation and the social and economic benefits
WSP recognizes the potential of the practice to improve impacted ecosystems, and as an important tool in building resilience to climate change. As this practice directly supports a UN initiative, support of the relevant SDGs is directly and intentionally incorporated into implementation of each project. The company leverages significant skilled resources and capabilities to move ecosystem restoration from a fringe movement to an essential response to protect our global food and water supply; restore and protect vulnerable habitats; and help communities build resilience to future impacts.
WSP has implemented nature-based solutions on myriad projects, restoring and enhancing biodiversity for tens of thousands of acres of ecosystems. Its restoration design is grounded in science and supported by extensive technical studies, including hydrodynamic modeling, sediment sampling and endangered species surveys. For these projects, WSP provides lifecycle services, from conceptual planning and detailed design through construction and post-construction monitoring, and public and stakeholder engagement. Higbee Beach Tidal Wetland Restoration: WSP partnered with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on the restoration of several hundred acres of coastal marsh into a greenway, to provide habitat for migratory species and support maritime and early successional forest, and a public access network. Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan C-44 Stormwater Treatment Area (STA): WSP partnered with the South Florida Water Management District on this 6,700-acre environmental protection project — among the largest in the U.S. — to improve water supply and restore and preserve fish and wildlife habitat. Wisconsin Point Dune Restoration: WSP provided environmental design services to restore and stabilize sand dune habitat along a three-mile-long natural sand spit fronting Lake Superior, part of one of the longest freshwater sandbars in the world degraded by excessive heavy foot traffic. Lincoln Park Wetlands Restoration: WSP designed a 42-acre tidal marsh adjacent to Lincoln Park in Jersey City, which had become an unpermitted landfill. Peat Mine Restoration: WSP partnered with The Nature Conservancy on the restoration of a former peat mine within a 600-acre peat meadow/forested wetland complex containing more than three miles of ditched stream channel.
The results and benefits of these projects are both tangible and intangible, unique to location and common among them. Before the Everglades C-44 STA was even complete, monitors cited a remarkable resurgence of the endangered Everglades Snail Kite, counting more than 20 nests in the project area. A trend of almost immediate ecological uplift has been noted on numerous projects. Today, the degraded wetlands, streams and salt marshes of Lincoln Park are restored with tidal habitats, new inter-tidal channels and public walking trails. Similarly, the restoration of Higbee Beach Tidal Wetland and Wisconsin Point Dunes balance improved habitat with public access that provides interactive and educational opportunities. In other examples, the Apalachicola Bay Living Shoreline in Florida and Staten Island Living Breakwaters in New York are using innovative nature-based designs to provide coastal resilience against sea level rise and, at the same time, provide new habitat for marine life.
WSP has succeeded in advancing ecosystem restoration projects by being mindful of the hurdles identified in the UN strategy report: public awareness, political will, legal and policy environments, technical capacity, finance and scientific research. The company partners with organizations committed to funding and delivering these important projects, and its project development process involves rigorous stakeholder engagement. WSP leverages a broad array of environmental scientists and engineers to ensure the strategies and solutions developed are site-appropriate and achieve buy in from project owners, regulatory agencies and the public.
WSP views the practice of ecosystem restoration as a long-term solution with continuous missions integrated into our societal culture to reverse the global loss of natural ecosystems and biodiversity. The practice has immeasurable potential across the globe. The UN initiative provides a global-scale platform to communicate the extent to which ecosystem degradation is impacting billions of people, the costs of degradation, and the profound benefits that would accrue with major investments in restoration. The implementation of regional projects provides tangible evidence of how those benefits accumulate over time and result in a positive return on investment. Taken together, this presents a compelling education. In addition to public funding, corporations are actively seeking to reduce their carbon generation and ecosystem restoration has a role to play. Increased education and funding, dovetailing with innovation and technology advances, provide a major opportunity for sustainment.
The impacts of COVID-19 on this practice varies. At the federal level, funding from the Omnibus Appropriations and Coronavirus Relief Package will help support water resource projects nationwide. Conversely, restoration at the local government level will likely slow down as projected reduced tax bases impact budgets.
SDGS & Targets
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Deliverables & Timeline
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WSP applies nature-based solutions to reverse biodiversity loss and build resilience in every region in which we operate — North and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.