New CBD framework for nature should include target for restoring 300,000km of rivers

Posted on 23 September 2022

Rivers are linear systems so their restoration is best measured in linear units.
Key Messages:
  • Freshwater habitats, of which rivers are an important habitat type, cover only about 2% of the Earth’s surface but are home to 10% of known species and are suffering declines in species abundance more than twice as fast as the declines observed on land or in the oceans.
  • Restoration of river flows and connectivity are important restoration activities that need to be considered by the post-2020 GBF and included in Target 2.
  • The amount of riverine restoration is best monitored in linear units (km) given the linear nature of river systems. Therefore, metrics limited to areal extent (e.g., hectares) as currently proposed in Target 2 will fail to adequately include this important ecosystem.
  • As Target 2 will be more effective if expressed in absolute numbers, it is suggested that it includes “at least 300,000 km of rivers” among the other ecosystems.
To achieve the overall goal of reversing biodiversity loss, it is crucial to highlight the role played by free flowing rivers in ensuring ecological connectivity for inland water species. Although connectivity has featured in the Convention on Biological Diversity’s policy making for over a decade and continues to play a key role across the post-2020 GBF (Goal A, Milestone A.1, Target 1, 2, and 3), the importance of restoring river connectivity and flows has not been highlighted enough in the latest draft versions of the framework.

Restoring rivers means restoring the unimpeded movement of species and the flow of natural processes that sustain life on earth. Removing barriers and other actions to restore flows and connectivity in rivers are important restoration activities that need to be considered by the GBF Target 2.

To avoid known issues with defining the current extent of ‘transformed’ or ‘converted’ areas, draft text for Target 2 is moving away from a percentage target and toward the expression of a restoration target in terms of a global area in (billions of hectares). While this is readily applicable for terrestrial ecosystems and certain types of inland waters or wetlands, an area-based approach is “poorly adapted” to river ecosystems.

This briefing - endorsed by the Decade of Restoration, IUCN, Freshwater Conservation Committee, TNC, Wetlands International, WWF and WWT - proposes to address this gap by proposing a global target and indicator to define and track river restoration under the post-2020 GBF.
Briefing for CBD on river restoration target
© WWF
Major dam removal in Finland involving government, hydropower company and WWF
© Mikko Nikkinen/WWF
Free Flowing Rivers
© Hkun Lat / WWF-Australia