Landscape restoration and change
Landscape restoration principles and practices are raising expectations as effective ways and entry-points for sustainable management of landscapes across the MRU and West Africa. The specific experiences of the Project show expectations from restoration and its assessment tool – ROAM, rising; in the drylands (Burkina Faso); across transboundary forest landscapes and river basins; as a decision-making tool for wildlife corridors; a tool to assess opportunities for restoration in coastal landscape complexes, and a mechanism that aligns well with Public Private Partnerships as a mechanism for resources mobilization. As we learn from these different contexts, our knowledge of their specificities will help us better manage the expectations that stakeholders may have. We share a few notable experiences below.
Dealing with Drylands – Burkina Faso
In a context of extreme weather events occurring under a possible changing climate, the notion of “opportunity for restoration” – a central facet of landscape restoration, becomes ever more germane. In drylands, Landscape degradation increases the likelihood of weather phenomenon becoming more unpredictable and more destructive. One example is the increased frequency and ferocity of flashfloods metamorphosed from “ordinary” floods. As information systems improve, so too should predicting biophysical pre-conditions and location of possible flashfloods; and opportunities for early landscape restoration action, so that the curve of flood characteristics is bent away from the likelihood of flash floods, and back towards normal flooding, and or no flooding.
A central tenet of ROAM is “integrating high-quality local knowledge and the best available science”. It is through this combination and overlaying of information; of knowledge, that the ROAM process can best lead us towards best-bet and, most viable opportunities for restoration or for “sustaining ecological benefits and improving livelihoods for communities”. Our experiences in Burkina Faso enables us to make the following observations:
Landscape degradation is very significantly associated with Soil fertility issues
Communities demonstrate consistent and exceptionally precise knowledge of locations and distribution of degraded landscapes.
Flash flooding emerged as a significant hazard to lives and livelihoods (including prone areas being subjected to higher disaster insurance premiums). As a result, the pre-conditions, enablers and aggravating conditions for flashfloods are important factors to be considered in a ROAM exercise.
Landscape degradation is identified in drylands as an aggravating factor of flooding. However, the characteristics and location of the degradation, determines whether a flood is likely to be an ordinary one, or a more destructive flashflood.
Therefore, given resource scarcity, opportunity for restoration should consider, amongst other factors, overall benefits of the interventions; such as cost benefits analyses of preventing flashfloods in the long term versus loss of short-term crop production, etc.
Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration – FMNR (Zai, etc.) is a significant restoration option in Burkina Faso, and in the African drylands. It is a standalone knowledge product that needs to be taken very seriously in landscape restoration programs.
The Transboundary landscapes management challenge
Unlike the transboundary river basins, national frontiers, per se, in the MRU and elsewhere, are not ecological entities, but political symbols with socio-economic significance. The contribution of the dynamics around national frontiers to learning about landscapes remains important. So, actions to restore ecological function around transboundary areas must recognize the interaction of political, socio-economic and ecological dimensions. Achieving this requires that relevant datasets be acquired in the completeness. This so because, some aspects of landscape restoration in transboundary areas will recognize existence of a political frontier; while other important ones may not.
de facto ecological entities to be considered in their completeness in transboundary areas include biodiversity continuums and hotspots (e.g. habitats or migratory routes for fauna), watersheds like Mount Nimba or any one of the 07 river basins in the MRU, where the WA BiCC/TetraTech Project is implementing activities.
Furthermore, given differences between how Francophone and Anglophone States manage Protected areas there is unlikely to be real harmonization across frontiers anytime soon. Resource management tactics such as protection and or livelihoods strategies used as a restoration intervention, must therefore, respond and adapt to both political practicalities, and to eco-scientific logic.
For instance, it is necessary to map the policy landscape of national frontier zones, as a distinct layer of information, with the physical frontier considered only as an ‘object’ of information; and not mix it up with ecological entities.
A ROAM in an international frontier area, is likely to raise expectations well beyond what is necessary for landscape restoration. Keeping the potential for social, cultural or political conflicts low, is key. Ecological aspects of national frontiers must be the emphasis. Even where such frontiers are water bodies, as is often the case (e.g. Liberia with Cote d’Ivoire, or with Sierra Leone) the river basin, watershed or landscape perspective must trump the political geography.
In the specific case of the Gola – Foya – Wonegizi – Wologizi – Ziama, a successful ROAM will help actions to sustain ecological benefits, strengthen the connectivity in the transboundary river basin forests, and improve livelihoods from Sierra Leone, through Liberia into Guinea (Figure 5c). A similar situation presents itself in the Nimba Mountains (Figure 5a) but this time, between Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Guinea Conakry; and between Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire (Figure 5d1) for the Grebo and Tai, impacting ecological benefits and livelihoods in the Cavally and Sassandra river basins.
Currently, high-level collaboration, including in some cases, Memorandums of Understanding, exists between the Forestry and Environment Services of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Cote d’Ivoire. The ongoing ROAM exercises funded by the GEF is being implemented under the aegis of the GEF/IUCN/MRU. Unfortunately, the “distinct States’ prerogative appeared to have prevailed in teaming arrangements, as separate country ROAM teams have been constituted. These teams only work as far as their national frontiers, with the subsequent country teams doing same on the other side of the frontier. From an ecological perspective; river basins, biodiversity or watershed, such an approach is likely to miss the “big picture” – or the landscape perspective, which is a central element in a ROAM.
It can be hypothesized that, by submitting to the “distinct State” prerogative; where political limits take precedence over ecological continuity (landscape, eco-region, river basin or watershed perspective), the “transboundary” argument is somewhat defeated. Ideally, under the auspices of the MRU, multi-country, multi-disciplinary teams should have been constituted to perform the mapping and associated landscape analyses.
However, all hope is not lost. Provided good quality, participatory mapping is performed on either side of national frontiers; to be strengthened by appropriate use of remotely sensed data and Geographic Information Systems, the Transboundary dimension of the spatial analyses can still be redeemed.
Furthermore, transboundary spatial analyses even in socially and politically connected entities can be sensitive, and complicated. Broad-based consultations and preparations, likely to be time-consuming and costly are required. Therefore, using desktop approaches to correct missing landscape perspectives is more reasonable than repeating the ROAM exercises even where adjacent transboundary maps are unavailable. Finally, given that a “restoration opportunity itself is at best a “moving target” there is occasion in the future to perform new analyses to fill any gaps observed in the current work.
ROAM supporting wildlife corridors in multiple use landscapes
Wildlife corridors can be migratory routes for fauna species or ecological connections for flora gene transmissions, such as via pollinators. Promoting functional diversity and interconnectivity are to landscape or ecosystem management, as species richness and habitat protection are to protected area conservation. Landscape management then seeks to connect habitats, enabling functional diversity to play its ecosystem role of ensuring diverse responses to stressors and shocks, thereby strengthening resilience, sustaining life, livelihoods and human-ecosystem adaptation. So, to the extent that a ROAM can assist landscape managers determine where and how to address degradation of functional diversity, so too can a ROAM support concepts like wildlife corridors in multiple use landscapes.
As a framework for action which provides options and choices, the ultimate purpose of a ROAM is identifying ‘best bet” locations for sustaining ecological function and improving livelihoods. As a result, while a ROAM can support the functioning of wildlife corridors, it is far-fetched to expect it to deliver wildlife corridors by itself.
For instance, the envisaged “wildlife corridors” across the MRU are multiple use landscapes that include habitats in HCVFs, and a mosaic of land uses comprising of community forests, forest concessions, mining concessions, agroforestry mosaics, protected areas, agro-industrial plantations, etc.
Considering Figure 5c; with minimal management constraints across 5 km overlapping peripheral zones, the HCVF continuum (a, b, c, d, e) from Gola in Sierra Leone via Liberia, to Ziama in Guinea Conakry, already presents opportunity for a viable transboundary wildlife corridor. On the other hand, the HCVFs in Figure 5d1 (f, g, h), do not depict an equivalent opportunity for an automatic transboundary wildlife corridor. As a result of this greater difficulty here, the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, and the Liberian Forest Development Authority, with Project resources, are engaged in the efforts depicted in Figures 5d2 a and b. This effort shows a complex landscape comprising of Timber Concessions, Conservation areas, possibly mining and Agroforestry mosaics between the Sapo National Park, the Grebo (on the Liberian side), and Tai National Park in Cote d’Ivoire.
Given these existing land uses it is plausible that “a Conservation zone” (CFMA Conservation, Figure 5d2 b) appears to have a good potential to “connect” Sapo and Grebo. With the “heavy-lifting” almost completed through land use planning, there is a minimal advocacy case that a ROAM can make for connecting the two blocks of CFMA Conservation, and complete a transboundary wildlife corridor from Sapo, to Grebo and across to Tai National Park in the Cote d’Ivoire.
The bigger point being made here is that, the appearance of land use conflict does not present excellent opportunities for a ROAM. But as the conflict diminishes and the ultimate vocations for the land are determined, the value of ROAM as a tool to help sustain ecological function and improve livelihoods, so a proposed corridor can better serve its purpose to connect the ecosystem, and support human lives, becomes more likely and viable.
Restoration considerations for coastal landscape complexes
“Restoration of coastal landscape complexes is a newer phenomenon to the ROAM process. However, the same general principle of ‘best-bet’ conditions for sustaining ecological function and improving human wellbeing, apply. Coastal complexes are exposed to wave actions and sea level fluctuations so they would be susceptible to climate change effects on maritime dynamics. Furthermore, given the harsh ecological conditions of salinity; relatively lower floral diversity compared to some terrestrial ecosystems, human subsistence can be precarious. These natural, human and climate change induced factors, can induce some specific knowledge requirements, and land use practices, for successful restoration in coastal landscape complexes”
Recall that, assessing ‘best-bet’ conditions for sustaining ecological function and improving human wellbeing, are at the heart of landscape restoration. We use below, some lessons from the WA BiCC/TetraTech Project’s work in the Fresco landscape, Cote d’Ivoire, and from the Sierra Leone coastal Landscape complex, (CEISEN, 2018), to illustrate viewpoints for landscape restoration practice. Our knowledge base also draws on reviews of comparable works (Machin & Lewis, 2013). Against these backdrops, we discuss three sets of circumstances, to share perspectives for optimum landscape restoration awareness and practice in coastal landscape complexes. The first set is the scale and the ecosystem/landscape significance of restoration. The second, is the physico-chemical context; coastline dynamics and water quality, in relation to restoration practice; and the third pertains to coastal livelihoods and their relationship to restoration awareness.
• Scale, ecosystem or landscape significance of restoration.
Scale illustrates how functional diversity can interact to build resilience in terrestrial ecosystems. In coastal landscapes, scale demonstrates the contribution that targeted landscape restoration (e.g., inland upstream) can make towards enhancing water quality (salinity) and sedimentation (development and positioning of mudflats) – two factors with known impacts on natural and human-induced regeneration of Mangroves.
Figure 6 above is a rendering of the Fresco coastal landscape, Cote d’Ivoire. The cartographic interpretation of forest degradation is based on almost 2 decades old data on the Cote d’Ivoire . It depicts human induced degradation of forest reserves, and the likelihood that hydrological actions (river flow), soil erosion, transportation and sedimentation from upstream, will impact the Fresco lagoon downstream. As a result of such a spatial relationship the WA BiCC/TetraTech Project’s coastal resilience project in the Cote d’Ivoire, very wisely considers formally integrating, management of the Lagoon and both the Okoromodou and Port Gauthier forest reserves, as crucial to Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in the Fresco area. Landscape restoration therefore, has a predetermined entry-point here – upland. Any ROAM or assessment exercise for restoration must take these upstream – downstream considerations to be very important in determining opportunities for restoration.
On the other hand, the conception of the Sherbro Marine protected area in Sierra Leone as depicted below is different. It did not previously, in an explicit way, portray strong upstream/downstream or inland/coastal spatial relationships between the lagoon and upstream areas, probably facing degradation. Current work by the WA BiCC/TetraTech Project however, is mapping Chieftaincies, inland in order to better develop a broader landscape perspective. This does not mean by either not visualizing such a relationship; or by working to establish one, a pre-determined outcome is envisaged. The purpose of current work is anticipatory and based on the precautionary assumption that, should such a relationship, integrated management will be facilitated.
So, new land use zones are being identified and mapped inland by the WA BiCC/TetraTech Project, e.g. mines, although these are not yet (officially) part of an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) plan (such as the perspective of the Fresco Landscape). It is important that these connections and their implications for natural or human-induced restoration of mangroves are established. One way to achieve this later, is to envisage incorporating such considerations into the official Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the Sherbro Marine Protected Area. Given that this site is being proposed for a RAMSAR site, upstream areas (the Chieftaincy domains) could be designated under specific management regimes to support such a proposition.
Dynamics of coastal complexes, water quality and relationship with restoration opportunity
In purely terrestrial contexts, restoration opportunities can be uncertain, even elusive due to varying factors like national policies, stakeholder priorities, demand for new products/commodities, changing markets and fluctuating costs. So, restoration questions can include what, where and even if to invest for optimum landscape impacts, for people and for nature. However, whereas the consequences of making sub optimal choices for restoration in most terrestrial landscape are less dire, sub optimal choices or lack of awareness/information in coastal areas can be catastrophic.
For instance, in terms of physical factors; wave action can uproot propagules, even debris in water can uproot propagules. The changing positions of mud flats affects distribution and redistribution of sediments and consequently the danger posed to planted propagules that may be submerged and killed. The elevation of the shelf or bank where planting is intended; and likelihood that it may be submerged for extended periods is also a factor determining if propagules will survive or not. Therefore, secondary data or local information from participatory analyses which provides answers to these questions and issues are critical to restoration assessments; and to the extent that such information can be mapped will also strengthen he knowledge base.
The gradient of salinity of water, and the salinity tolerance thresholds of the mangrove Species are also important considerations. More salt-tolerant mangrove species would tend to be planted where the water is more saline. In general, water toxicity can be influenced by inland activities, such as agriculture, mining or other activities.
In terms of physical disintegration, different coastlines have demonstrated different levels of fragility. As a result of changing tidal levels and retreating coastlines, determination and mapping of opportunities for restoration in coastal landscapes must systematically piece together available information over time, including historical information, for each local context. So, unlike for terrestrial contexts where opportunity maps for restoration can remain fairly stable and valid for extended periods after they were developed, the same cannot be said for coastal areas.
Restoration for improved community livelihoods in coastal complexes.
Besides helping to sustain ecological functionality by supporting natural or human induced regeneration of mangroves, restoration approaches in coastal complexes must also be responsive to livelihoods. Providing support requires understanding of the nature of livelihoods strategies; opportunities and constraints. the WA BiCC/TetraTech Project’s work highlights a number of key elements, comprising; a requirement for information, especially climate information; technical silviculture skills for nursery development and plant propagation; how to cope with relatively low floral diversity with potential to negatively impact diversification of livelihoods options; the overly focused livelihoods on what the sea provides; and relationship between the over-dependence on the sea, and mangrove degradation (e.g. need for biomass energy for smoking sea products).
A coastal landscape best practices review (CEISIN, 2018) identified climate information and its impact on livelihoods to be amongst the top most important needs by people. The more real-time the information, the more relevant it would be to livelihoods. This implies that, a climate information system could be made spatially explicit by integrating it with a Land Use information system, with possibility for getting participation (feedback and even reports) by communities. As a product of a landscape analyses process, such a product can also be used as a monitoring system.
As mentioned under water quality, salinity is a major constraint to both mangrove regeneration and or to silvicultural activities. Nursery activities are investments with financial implications for communities. The pathway from germination of propagules to planting out is especially precarious in coastal areas as young plants must be protected from saline water, as well as from domestic and wild fauna.
Finally, coastal livelihoods are overly dependent on the sea. With inadequate alternative forms of energy, such as electrical power for refrigeration, smoking is the most cost-effective method for preserving many sea products for later, and for the market. The ability of mature mangroves to survive salinity makes them the overwhelmingly dominant flora in the context and therefore the principal source of wood biomass to smoke sea products – the main source of livelihoods. These direct relationships may have created susceptibilities; however, many of these coastal communities have subsisted on these dynamics for decades, even centuries. It thus appears that threats to coastal ecosystems, and a need for restoration strategies emanates more from a need to better understand/communicate with, the context; and better adjust to its dynamics, with the goal of better managing change. One way would be, monitoring new “energy inflows” (all that comes in through activities by man; upstream eutrophication, sedimentation, plastics, population growth, information, etc.) and “energy outflows” (what’s taken out, such as wood, wildlife, migration, etc.)