The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
7 Places With Unexpected Forest Restoration Potential
The world has lost almost half of its original forest cover, due largely to booming population growth and agricultural expansion. But even though these forests are gone, there is still a tremendous amount of underutilized and unproductive land that has the potential to provide valuable ecosystem services if trees are returned to the landscape. Clean water, improved soil fertility and income from forest products are just a few of the services that these lands, once restored, could provide.
So where in the world are the greatest opportunities for restoration? In collaboration with the University of Maryland and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and as part of the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, World Resources Institute (WRI) recently updated its Atlas of Forest Landscape Restoration Opportunities. We found that more than 2 billion hectares of land worldwide have the potential to be restored—and many of them are located in some unexpected places.
What Do We Mean by Restoration?
As we noted in a recent blog post, restoration isn’t just about planting trees—it involves improving the productivity of landscapes that are deforested or degraded. Through a geospatial analysis involving dozens of datasets ranging from population density to land cover to climate, we produced a global map showing where deforested and degraded forest areas have the greatest potential to be restored. The map classifies the type of restoration opportunity using three main categories:
- Wide-scale restoration aims to restore dense forests to the landscape. This type of restoration is most feasible in deforested or degraded landscapes with low population density (< 10 people/km2) that are also areas where forests formerly dominated the landscape.
- Mosaic restoration integrates trees into mixed-use landscapes, such as agricultural lands and settlements. This is the most common opportunity. Trees in these regions can support people by improving water quality, increasing soil fertility and boosting other ecosystem services. This type of restoration works best in deforested or degraded landscapes with moderate population density (10 - 100 people/km2).
- Remote restoration is reserved for deforested or degraded areas that are completely unpopulated and located far away from human settlements, such as northern Canada and Siberia. The reduced density of forests in these areas is likely due to fire and pests rather than human interventions, and their remoteness makes them a more costly, lower-priority restoration opportunity.
Where Can We Find Restoration Opportunities?
On a continental scale, Africa has the greatest area of opportunity for both wide-scale and mosaic restoration. At more than 720 million hectares, this area is roughly equivalent to the entire opportunity area for North and South America combined.
But there are also several unexpected countries that offer significant restoration opportunities. These seven places are surprising because we don’t think of them as being forested in the traditional sense—their forests having long been cleared for other land uses–but their potential for restoration is great:
Building a Restoration Movement
A global map that highlights potential opportunities is just the starting point, however. National and sub-national analyses are needed to identify more precisely where restoration can take place and how it can be done. WRI, in partnership with IUCN, is already working on these detailed analyses. The newly-released Restoration Opportunity Assessment Methodology Handbook provides an overview of how we are approaching these assessments and helping to create a roadmap toward large-scale restoration throughout the world.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.
Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.
Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.
Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.
East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.