10 Questions with Clara Rowe from Restor – a science-based open platform designed to connect and support the global restoration of the planet. 

1. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing platform with the Happy Eco News audience. To start, can you give us a brief overview about what Restor does? 

Founded by ETH Zurich’s Crowther Lab and developed in collaboration with Google, Restor connects everyone, everywhere to local restoration. By connecting people to scientific data, supply chains, funding, and each other, Restor aims to increase the impact, scale, and sustainability of restoration efforts. Think of it like a Google Map for restoration. 

Projects come onto our platform to access ecological, environmental, and socioeconomic data: such as how much carbon is in the soil and how much could there be if I restored it? What species of trees and grasses and shrubs could occur here naturally and how drought-resistant or endangered are they? They can also access data on precipitation, elevation, and soil pH which are important details to consider when planning a restoration project. 

To make long-term monitoring and reporting easier, we’ve also brought super high-resolution satellite imagery onto the platform.

2. What was the inspiration to create this platform? 

Restor was inspired by a desire to connect the global network of restoration practitioners to the latest science, and facilitate efforts to accelerate the restoration of ecosystems at scale. Effective restoration of global ecosystems has the potential to reduce the threats posed by biodiversity loss, climate change, and rural poverty. But, many restoration projects fall short of their goals for a wide range of entirely avoidable reasons. By connecting people to data and a network of experts, we hope to change that. 

3. Can you tell us a bit about the global restoration movement? What is it and why is it so important now? 

The global restoration movement is everyone that is interested in, or involved in, the restoration of nature. There are already thousands of projects worldwide, working hard to restore, replant, and revegetate ecosystems for the benefit of local communities and biodiversity. 

Restoration is critical to slowing climate change and reducing its impacts, like the flooding, fires, and drought experienced around the world this year. The restoration of nature is an incredibly powerful way to reintroduce native species, capture carbon, and protect the land we all depend on. Managed in ecologically and socially responsible ways, restoration can increase food security for more than 1.3 billion people, sequester more than 299 gigatonnes of CO2, and avoid 60 percent of expected species extinctions.*  We’re building Restor to help unlock and accelerate that potential.

4. What has been the reaction to the platform so far? Do you have any inspirational stories to share?

The reaction has been overwhelming and inspiring! Our launch prompted many of the sites registered on Restor to share their stories online. We’ve heard from one Australian organization who said we’ve given them hope for their beloved kolas, and another organization in Kenya is excited to have an easy-to-use tool to record and share information about their sites. Knowing that these projects feel supported and connected to a bigger community feels amazing. 

We’ve also been named as a finalist of the Earthshot Prize, a prestigious global environment prize designed to incentivize change and help repair our planet over the next ten years. The response and support we’ve received since this news was announced has been incredible, and we’re thrilled to see that the world is recognizing the incredible environmental work that is already happening across the globe.

Photo copyright of Koala Clancy Foundation

5. At the time of this interview, there are 74,500 sites, are these sites recorded as being restored? 

Sites on Restor can be in the planning stage, ongoing, or completed, so the restoration of many of these sites is still ongoing. It’s important to note that all the site information is self-reported. Today, we’re focused on bringing transparency and connectivity to sites rather than verifying progress directly. 

6. Does the team at Restor have the opportunity to visit the sites and see the progress/changes? 

We’ve had the pleasure of visiting a few sites, and hope to visit more in the future! Our Restoration Monitoring expert, Dr Daniella Schweizer, is in the process of collecting field data from a number of restoration sites to evaluate various technologies used to monitor forests, and assess their costs and scalability around the world. Her research is made possible with funding from Google.org. 

Dr Daniella Schweizer – monitoring expert

7. Do you offer any training programs/ videos for how to use the platform, especially for people who have never used this kind of program before? 

Yes! We have an extensive help page with answers to the questions we hear most often. We also have a  YouTube channel with guides in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. For people visiting Restor for the first time, we recommend they take the Guided Tour of the platform to get an overview of what they can do. 

8. How can one get involved with this project? Can they join/help any area in the world? 

People looking for a restoration project to support with their time or money can use the ‘Support Sought’ filter in Restor’s search tool to find sites that have asked for support. Once you find a project, use the listed contact details to contact the project directly and offer your support. 

You can also donate directly to Restor, via the donation button on our homepage. We will use your donation to bring new grassroots restoration projects onto the platform, providing them with access to ecological data, best-in-class satellite imagery, and a global network for potential funders and supporters. 

People can also get involved by restoring their own backyard! Anyone can use Restor to draw a polygon in their local area and learn more about the biodiversity, carbon potential, and environment of that area. 

Photo copyright of Vicross Yumol | Oceanus

9. Does Restor have any big plans or projects coming up? 

We have an ambitious target to double the number of projects on the platform by the end of the year. We know thousands of restoration projects are already underway and want to increase their visibility. We’re also exploring what needs to be brought into the restoration value chain on Restor. For example, nurseries, seed banks, and CO2 credit verification, so all of the actors involved in restoration are represented and connected. 

10. Any final words for our readers? 

Restoration is about restoring all ecosystems, not just trees and forests. Restor is made for projects working across any habitat or ecosystem, and for all kinds of land-use projects. We particularly encourage projects working in habitats that are currently underrepresented in global discussions to publish their sites on Restor! 

And finally, Restor is for everyone, not just scientists. The scientific data we host is an important part of what we do, but the real power lies with the connections being created between projects and the people behind those projects.

Sources for the facts in question 3: 

Food security for 1.3 billion people. UN Food and Agriculture Organization, ​​Interlinkages between desertification, land degradation, food security and greenhouse gas fluxes: Synergies, trade-offs and integrated response options. https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/4/2019/11/09_Chapter-6.pdf 

Sequester more than 299 gigatonnes of CO2. Global priority areas for ecosystem restoration, Nature. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2784-9 

Avoid 60 percent of expected species extinctions. Global priority areas for ecosystem restoration, Nature. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2784-9 

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