MEP Cesar Luena’s visit to El Hito highlights the need for a Nature Restoration Law
in News 7 November, 2022
The MEP Cesar Luena, responsible for processing the first legislation in history that explicitly aims to restore the nature of Europe, and a delegation of the Spanish Society of Ecological Restoration have visited the hands of Global Nature Foundation, the restoration work in the emblematic lagoon of El Hito Cuenca, included in the Natura 2000 Network (ZEPA-ZEC ES0000161) and considered a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention of Unesco. This restoration is being carried out through the project “LIFE El Hito” with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Commission and also with the support of the Provincial Council of Cuenca.
Cesar Luena’s visit coincides with the proposal of the Nature Restoration Law that the European Parliament is working on and that is expected to see the light at the end of next year, if the necessary support is obtained. It will be the first time that the European Union will have a regulation with the status of law to promote practical ecological restoration projects and regulate how they should be undertaken in large natural areas. “Nature in Europe is in an alarming state of deterioration, with more than 80% of habitats in poor condition. Wetlands are among the most affected habitats (with a reduction of more than 50% since 1970). We need the proposed law on nature restoration to be approved as soon as possible and not to lower the objectives set by the European Commission during the negotiations,” said the managing director of Fundación Global Nature, Eduardo de Miguel.
Restoration of the lagoon of El Hito
During the visit, Fundación Global Nature showed Cesar Luena different examples of ecological restoration of both productive agricultural landscapes and wetlands. Thus, it showed the restoration techniques used to recover saline steppe habitats of the lagoon of El Hito that have plants and insect species unique in Europe. He also explained the work being done with farmers in the region to restore steppe agricultural landscapes, increasing the value of their crops. These techniques consist of favoring rotation with legumes and fallow land, promoting crops with higher added value, reducing the use of fertilizers and phytosanitary products and promoting organic farming. Let us not forget that these steppe landscapes are home to highly threatened biodiversity, such as steppe birds, which have been in serious decline in recent decades.
To achieve these goals, Fundación Global Nature promotes alliances with the regional government, cooperatives and associations of farmers and hunters, other environmental NGOs, science (universities) and local communities and has public support, such as the LIFE Program or the Diputación de Cuenca, and private funding sources.
An investment rather than an expense
During the visit, it was discussed that nature restoration should be considered more of a long-term investment than an expense, since it favors job creation and offers new opportunities in highly depopulated rural areas.
In addition, “nature provides us with priceless ecosystem services,” recalls Eduardo de Miguel. Through their impact on habitats and species (some of them endemic), the restoration work at El Hito lagoon is expected to contribute to increasing the provision of ecosystem services, such as water, pollination, pest control and carbon sequestration. “It has been shown that Mediterranean wetlands in a good state of conservation fix greenhouse gases, but in poor condition they become emitters,” says De Miguel. One more reason to promote the restoration of Mediterranean wetlands whose capacity as carbon sinks is currently being evaluated by Fundación Global Nature together with other entities in the LIFE Wetlands4Climate project.
During the coming months, Global Nature will continue to collaborate with the EU on the proposed Nature Restoration Law, sending its proposals and suggestions, in order to lay the foundations for a regulation, with an allocated budget, that will favor the restoration of European nature, which has been so badly affected.