Motivated by widespread and accelerating land degradation, biodiversity loss and human-induced climate change, ecosystem restoration has become a global priority. Yet, despite a surge in international attention, the ecological, social, and interlinked social-ecological consequences of major restoration initiatives remain poorly understood. The proposed research unit will approach ecosystem restoration from a social-ecological systems perspective to better understand the mechanisms involved in generating different restoration outcomes.

We will follow a place-based approach to social-ecological systems research that allows for an in-depth understanding of a particular landscape by integrating different disciplines while also generating valuable transferable knowledge for restoration of degraded ecosystems worldwide. Our work will focus on western Rwanda because of Rwanda’s role as a global restoration leader. The overarching goal of the proposed research unit is to develop a social-ecological systems approach to ecosystem restoration. We expect to gain general insights into ecological, social and social-ecological mechanisms underpinning restoration that can also be applied to other restoration settings. This way, the research unit contributes to restoration science and social-ecological systems research, directly benefits restoration activities in Rwanda and offers insights to advance restoration practice globally.

Restoration in Rwanda

“In response to human-induced ecosystem degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change, the science and practice of restoration are rapidly expanding. With the United Nations having declared 2021–2030 the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, it is timely to reflect on the future of restoration as a science and practice.[...] The recasting of ecosystem restoration as a social-ecological endeavor offers exciting new opportunities for both research and practice.“ (Fischer et al. 2021)