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forest restoration

Trees have become an iconic image of environmentalism, but that doesn't necessarily mean we should plant millions of them.

While scale is important for landscape restoration, we need to reconsider quality and not just quantity. When does the presence of a tree really make a difference, and when is it neither an environmental or economical solution to a host of complex issues? What are the implications for food security, biodiversity and landscape protection?

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.

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.

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.

Natural Infrastructure

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...

President Obama is in Africa this week to discuss development, investment, health, and, notably, food security. The trip comes on the heels of the president’s groundbreaking announcement of a U.S. Climate Action Plan. So it’s a fitting time for Obama and other global leaders to take notice of a strategy that addresses both climate change and food security in Africa—re-greening.

Re-greening—a process where African farmers manage and protect trees that grow on their farms, rather than cutting them down—is already beginning to transform the continent’s drylands. Supporting and scaling up the low-tech process can not only increase crop yields in drought-prone regions, it can mitigate climate change and reduce rural poverty.

The History of Re-greening in Africa’s Drylands

Re-greening in Africa first garnered international attention back in 2007, when the New York Times published a front page article entitled “In Niger, Trees and Crops Help Turn Back the Desert.” Lydia Polgreen, who was the NYT’s West Africa bureau chief in those days, had visited Niger and reported “at least 7.4 million newly tree-covered acres.” The NYT article revealed that this large-scale re-greening was not due to expensive tree-planting projects, but was the result of farmers protecting and managing young trees that regenerated on their cultivated land.

This re-greening did not happen everywhere. It was observed in particular in dryland regions with high population densities. Life in dryland areas presents many challenges, and farmers and decision makers are continuously searching for ways to restore their resilience and agricultural productivity.

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