Reflecting on World Forest Week 2014, where the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN launched a Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism to help countries meet the Bonn Challenge to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2020, we need to further think about creating the rich landscapes that the world needs.
This interactive atlas is an information management tool, which aims to help stakeholders and decision makers identify opportunities for restoration.
There is a tremendous amount of underutilized and unproductive land throughout the world that has the potential to provide valuable ecosystem services if trees are returned to the landscape.
In collaboration with the University of Maryland and IUCN, and as part of the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, 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.
Almost half of the world’s original forests have been cleared or degraded. So naturally, most people think of the “forest restoration” movement as an effort to re-plant these lost trees.
But it’s time to see restoration as more than just the trees.
In the world of forestry, bamboo doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. Dismissed as a weed or marginalized in traditional forest management, bamboo could actually play an important role in forest and landscape restoration. With adequate attention, investment, and the right standards in place, it could become a major renewable and sustainable crop—if we can update our outmoded view of it.
Earlier this month, WRI launched its “Stories to Watch in 2014.”
All years are important, but decisions made in 2014 will have a striking impact for decades to come. Here are seven potential game-changers:
This week in Washington, D.C., members of the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) met to advance strategies to restore degraded forest landscapes around the world. Such restoration has the potential to bring millions of hectares of land back to life—a move that could help protect watersheds, ensure food security, improve the livelihoods of rural communities, tackle climate change, and conserve biodiversity.
The World Bank endorsed Ghana’s Forest Investment Plan in November 2012, approving a $50 million package that can restore forests, improve the country’s water supply, and provide better quality-of-life for communities. An analysis by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (CERSGIS), WRI, and other partners was instrumental in making this breakthrough program come to fruition.
Most of the original forests in Ghana have been degraded or converted into agricultural lands. In order to avoid further deforestation, Ghana proposed a $50 million plan to the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds. However, the World Bank declined to endorse the plan, arguing that it wouldn’t generate sufficient impact. The plan did not have any component for the restoration of forest and landscapes.
Meanwhile, IUCN, CERSGIS, and WRI had spent two years developing and applying a method to evaluate national forest and landscape restoration opportunities, supported by the World Bank Program on Forests (Profor) and the German International Climate Initiative. They found that Ghana had large-scale opportunities to capture carbon and improve quality-of-life through agroforestry, improved treatment of fallow land, and other measures.
The Government of Ghana and the World Bank incorporated the results of this restoration analysis into a revised plan. The addition of this evidence-based, well-argued restoration component persuaded the World Bank to green-light the Forest Investment Plan.
The $50 million investment will not only make Ghana a pioneer in restoring degraded lands to mitigate climate change, it can significantly improve the lives of the country’s rural populations. Restoring landscapes for agriculture, conservation, and other purposes can yield better harvests, improved water supplies, ecosystem services, jobs, and more.
WRI is currently working with IUCN and local partners as part of the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration, continuing its engagement in Ghana and conducting similar national assessments in Brazil and Rwanda. The aim is to meet the Bonn Challenge, an ambitious, international goal to initiate restoration on 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020.
Investing in Forested Landscapes for Source Water Protection in the United States
Aging water infrastructure, increasing demand, continued land use change, and increasingly extreme weather events are driving the costs of water management higher in the United States. Investing in integrated water management strategies that combine engineered solutions with "natural...
In recent centuries, half the world’s forests have been completely cleared or degraded. Yet this loss is also a great opportunity: More than 2 billion hectares of deforested and degraded land worldwide may have restoration potential.
Recognizing this prospect, in late 2011, the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) announced the first worldwide call for the restoration of deforested and degraded lands, with a target of restoring 150 million hectares by 2020. WRI is a member of the GPFLR and played a key role in building support for this target – the Bonn Challenge – by working with partners to quantify the restoration potential of the world’s forest landscapes. This work enabled a measurable restoration target to be set.
Restoring Forests, Improving Human Well-being
Forests provide hundreds of millions of people with food, fuel, fiber, and livelihoods. They also store carbon, conserve biodiversity, prevent soil erosion, improve water supply, and promote climate resilience. While international efforts to maintain forest benefits have largely focused on preventing deforestation, momentum is growing for complementary efforts to restore deforested and degraded areas.
In September 2011, a Ministerial Roundtable took place in Bonn, Germany, hosted by the German Government and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on behalf of the GPFLR. This event—in which ministers, private sector CEOs, and high-level representatives of international and non-governmental organizations participated—launched the Bonn Challenge.
The GPFLR is encouraging and assisting countries and companies to restore health and productivity to deforested and degraded landscapes, not just by planting trees, but through creating a mosaic of land uses that benefit both people and nature. A restored landscape can include sustainable agriculture, protected reserves, ecological corridors, agro-forestry systems, and riverside plantings that counter erosion.
In its first year, the challenge inspired pledges by the United States, the Mata Atlântica Restoration Pact of Brazil, and Rwanda to restore a combined 18 million hectares of land. When the goal of 150 million hectares (370 million acres) is reached, an area the size of Mongolia will be underway toward restoration.
Making a Difference: WRI’s Role
WRI played a leading role in the development of the first-ever detailed, global map of forest landscape restoration opportunities, working together with South Dakota State University and IUCN on behalf of the GPFLR. This assessment located more than 2 billion hectares of land with restoration potential worldwide. This map paved the way for the Bonn Challenge by answering three important questions that countries were asking:
- “Where might restoration opportunities be located?” (thereby making restoration spatially explicit);
- “Who could do restoration?” (thereby showing that most countries can play a role in and benefit from the Bonn Challenge); and
- “How much restoration might be possible?” (thereby providing the quantitative basis for the 150 million hectare target).
WRI’s contribution was made possible by financial support from the governments of Germany, United Kingdom, and United States, and from the Program on Forests (PROFOR) and IUCN.