Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, World Resources Institute, South Dakota State University, International Union for Conservation of Nature. September, 2011.
A World of Opportunity
Over the last several centuries, vast forest areas have been cleared as agriculture has spread and human populations have grown. About 30 percent of global forest cover has been completely cleared and a further 20 percent has been degraded. Breaking the spiral of loss and degradation and restoring these lands would bring many benefits.
Restored lands support livelihoods and biodiversity by supplying clean water, reducing erosion, providing wildlife habitat, biofuel, and other forest products. Forests and trees mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon. Trees in agricultural landscapes can enhance soil fertility, conserve soil moisture, and boost food production.
More than two billion hectares worldwide offer opportunities for restoration—an area larger than South America. Most of these lands are in tropical and temperate areas.
- One and a half billion hectares would be best-suited for mosaic restoration, in which forests and trees are combined with other land uses, including agroforestry, smallholder agriculture, and settlements.
- Up to about half a billion hectares would be suitable for wide-scale restoration of closed forests.
- In addition to these two billion hectares, there are 200 million hectares of unpopulated lands, mainly in the far northern boreal forests, that have been degraded by fire. These areas would likely be difficult to restore due to their remoteness.
Croplands and densely populated rural areas on former forest lands amount to a further one billion hectares. They do not offer extensive restoration opportunities in terms of area, but some of these lands would benefit from having trees planted in strategic places to protect and enhance agricultural productivity and other ecosystem functions.
Restoration is possible. Most countries have suffered forest loss and degradation and have opportunities for restoration. Vast deforested areas in Europe and North America have regrown forests. South Korea and Costa Rica have embarked on successful forest restoration strategies. tries are slowing desertification and restoring woodlands with associated dramatic improvements in livelihoods and ecological health. Yet restoration opportunities are often overlooked.
Restoration of Forests and Landscapes
Forest and landscape restoration is about more than just trees. It goes beyond afforestation, reforestation, and ecological restoration to improve both human livelihoods and ecological integrity. Key characteristics include the following:
- Local stakeholders are actively engaged in decision making, collaboration, and implementation.
- Whole landscapes are restored, not just individual sites, so that trade-offs among conflicting interests can be made and minimized within a wider context.
- Landscapes are restored and managed to provide for an agreed, balanced combination of ecosystem services and goods, not only for increased forest cover.
- A wide range of restoration strategies are considered, from managed natural regeneration to tree planting.
- Continuous monitoring, learning, and adaptation are central.
A restored landscape can accommodate a mosaic of land uses such as agriculture, protected reserves, ecological corridors, regenerating forests, well-managed plantations, agroforestry systems, and riparian plantings to protect waterways. Restoration must complement and enhance food production and not cause natural forests to be converted into plantations.
Many countries have suffered forest loss or degradation in the past. Opportunities for restoration are huge in terms of area and exist on all continents.
Many more countries can mitigate climate change through restoration than by avoiding additional deforestation and degradation.
Restoration and avoided deforestation are complementary and mutually supportive measures. Restoration opportunities tend to be located far away from the areas where ongoing deforestation is widespread and concentrated.
One of the most attractive features of forest and landscape restoration is its many benefits. The Convention on Biological Diversity has agreed on a target to restore 15 percent of degraded ecosystems by 2020. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has adopted a decision that sets a goal for all countries to slow, halt, and reverse forest cover and carbon loss. Properly designed initiatives could bring benefits for biodiversity and climate while also improving people’s lives.
- Susan Minnemeyer (WRI)
- Lars Laestadius (WRI)
- Nigel Sizer (WRI)
- Carole Saint-Laurent (IUCN)
- Peter Potapov (South Dakota State University).
This map was supported by the German
Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear
Safety, building on work supported by Profor and the Forestry
Commission of Great Britain. Review comments from the UNEP
World Conservation Monitoring Centre are gratefully acknowledged.