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.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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