Repairing forests, lakes and other types of nature reserves that have been damaged or depleted can generate wealth, create jobs and become a vital means of alleviating poverty, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), says in a new report. The report identifies thousands of ecosystem restoration projects worldwide and showcases over 30 initiatives that are transforming the lives of communities and countries across the globe. Entitled 'Dead Planet, Living Planet: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration for Sustainable Development', the report underlines that far from being a cost on growth and development, many environmental investments in degraded, nature-based assets can generate substantial and multiple returns. "The ecological infrastructure of the planet is generating services to humanity worth by some estimates over $70 trillion a year, perhaps substantially more," said Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director. "This report is aimed at bringing two fundamental messages to governments, communities and citizens on World Environment Day (WED) and in 2010 � the UN's International Year of Biodiversity. Namely, that mismanagement of natural and nature-based assets is undercutting development on a scale that dwarfs the recent economic crisis," Mr Steiner said. "Well-planned investments and re-investments in the restoration of these vast, natural and nature-based utilities not only has a high rate of return, but will be central, if not fundamental, to sustainability in a world of rising aspirations, populations, incomes and demands on the Earth's natural resources," said Mr Steiner. Nature restoration activities include rehabilitating water flows to rivers and lakes, improving soil stability and fertility for agriculture and combating climate change by sequestering and storing carbon from the atmosphere. The report underlines that maintaining and managing intact ecosystems must be the key priority. However, given that more than 60% of the ecosystems, ranging from marshes and coral reefs to tropical forests and soils, are already degraded, restoration must now be an equal priority. Rehabilitating ecosystems also generates jobs in a world where currently 1.3 billion are unemployed or underemployed, while supporting international goals to substantially reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity, a key theme this year. The report cites evidence that well-planned, science-based, community-supported programmes can recover between 25 and 44% of the original services alongside the animals, plants and other biodiversity of the former intact system. As an example, it points to a study on restoring degraded grasslands and lands around river systems in South Africa's Drakensberg Mountains. It estimates that the project will bring back winter river flows to communities amounting to close to four million cubic metres of water, cut sediment losses and store carbon.