Global review of marine restoration projects and funding sources

A new review by marine experts has revealed the locations, primary sources of funding and beneficiaries of large-scale marine and coastal restoration efforts taking place around the world.

The report, Endangered Seascapes: Progress, needs and opportunities for seascape restoration focuses on large, “seascape”-scale projects, recognising the importance of integrated approaches to the use and conservation of coastal and marine socio-ecological systems.

The report and accompanying database are both available online for free and contain a high-level analysis marine restoration work undertaken from 2015-2022. Restoration practitioners, reserve managers and others can explore projects as well as their purpose, location and implementing partners.  

The report, authored by experts from the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), also details potential sites for seascape restoration to aid funders and others in identifying areas of opportunity.

The researchers found that EUR3.35 billion has been invested in seascape restoration from 2015, across 237 projects. Coral reefs were the most frequent habitat targeted for restoration, followed by mangroves and seagrass beds. However, mangroves received the greatest proportion of the funding. The highest number of projects were found in Western Europe, however, the Asia-Pacific region received the largest amount of funding.

The results presented in the study contributes to a rapidly growing knowledge base as part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and can help support evidence-based decision making in relation to restoration targets, such as the ambition in the recently agreed Global Biodiversity Framework and related package of decisions to have restoration completed or underway on at least 30 per cent of coastal and marine ecosystems by 2030. Key insights from the research include:

  • There is steady growth in the number of large-scale coastal and marine restoration projects around the globe, with an increase in the number of projects from 75 in 2015 to 118 in 2022.
  • The majority of projects had multiple goals (53 per cent), with biodiversity conservation being the most common (88 per cent of projects) and most funded, accounting for EUR3.1 billion of committed funds. This was followed by climate change adaptation (24 per cent of projects), while a smaller proportion explicitly mentioned climate change mitigation or research (17 per cent respectively).
  • Active restoration, such as the planting of seedlings, was the most commonly reported method used to restore degraded and lost habitats. However, this pattern may reflect the fact that many area-based management tools – like marine protected and conserved areas and fisheries closures – are often not referred to as forms of “restoration” in academic literature.

The report authors found data gathering and sharing on marine and coastal habitat restoration can often be fragmented and incomplete, making it difficult to understand where restoration has worked and where the greatest potential is for strategic investment.

To meet restoration commitments, it will be essential to improve transparency around what actions are being undertaken, how, by whom and what is working well and what less so. The information collected in the study will support the development of evidence-based restoration planning and action to deliver impactful and equitable outcomes for people and nature. 

Calls for increased action to safeguard and restore our ocean are growing, but we need to ensure actions are evidence-based. To make the best use of what funding we have available increased transparency and knowledge sharing is essential. We need to know what is being done, how, by who, for what reason and if it is working.  

Dr Chris McOwen, report author and UNEP-WCMC's Lead Marine Scientist

The spotlight is now clearly on the marine restoration agenda and coordinated international work to safeguard our oceans and their vital role in ensuring the health of people and the planet. This report is a first step to better intelligence on ocean action – and we want it to inform funders and conservationists and inspire more strategic action.

David Thomas, Programme Director of the Endangered Landscapes Programme, commenting on the new report

The project was commissioned by Arcadia, a charitable foundation that works to protect nature, preserve cultural heritage and promote open access to knowledge. Since 2002 Arcadia has awarded more than USD 1 billion to organisations around the world.

Read the full report and explore the Global Marine Restoration Database

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