Restoring forests for sustainable development: policies, practices and impacts

IUFRO's Special Project on World Forests, Society and Environment (WFSE) has started the work on a new topic focusing on forest restoration.

Atlas Mountains, Morocco. Photo: IUFRO

There is a long history of conservation, reforestation and tree planting for various purposes in different parts of the world. But, due to the continuing alarming rates of deforestation and forest degradation the past decades have seen an unprecedented increase in the acknowledgement of the urgent need to restore forest ecosystems and political commitments towards this aim.

The United Nations has declared 2021-2030 the ‘Decade of Ecosystem Restoration’ and multiple international, national and sub-national initiatives now promote the restoration of degraded forest lands. Estimates of the degraded or deforested forest lands (or landscapes) that could potentially be restored range from 0.9 to 2 billion ha (Bastin et al. 2019; Minnemeyer et al. 2011).

The Special Project on World Forests, Society and Environment (IUFRO-WFSE) will provide an overview of the history of forest restoration, current commitments, assessments of restoration potentials and current achievements, and conduct a comprehensive review of and contribute to the knowledge on institutional, social, economic, ecological and technical issues that influence forest restoration and the outcomes and impacts of restoration efforts.

The project will, among other things, discuss the different “forest restoration” concepts, definitions and datasets, as well as the related perspectives and approaches and how the different understandings are linked to current debates on the ecological, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development.

It will review forest restoration paradigms, discourses and policies and drivers of forest restoration as well as different restoration scenarios and their ecological, economic, cultural and social feasibility. It will also consider the short- and long-term costs and benefits of forest restoration and discuss technological development and advances in sivicultural and ecological management and their implications for forest restoration.

A special focus will be placed on the interrelationship between forest restoration and climate change. Furthermore, the research will review restoration in the context of local development, including governance issues, enabling conditions for restoration, and the distribution of restoration costs and benefits and related impacts on sustainable development and human well-being at the local scale.

The project is coordinated in Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and it brings together scientists and experts from international research and development organizations and universities from different parts of the world, including CIFOR, ICRAF, IIASA, IUCN, WWF, EFI, University of Florida, University of Freiburg, University of Melbourne and Kyoto University, for example. The results of the project will be published as an open access book in early 2023. 

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The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) is a non-profit, non-governmental international network of forest scientists, which promotes global cooperation in forest-related research and enhances the understanding of the ecological, economic and social aspects of forests and trees. IUFRO unites more than 15,000 scientists in almost 700 Member Organizations in over 110 countries, and is a member of ICSU.