Successful forest landscape restoration integrates a number of guiding principles, including:

  • Focus on landscapes. It restores entire landscapes, not individual sites. Restoration typically entails balancing across the landscape a mosaic of interdependent land uses—such as protected forest areas, ecological corridors, regenerating forests, other natural ecosystems, agroforestry systems, agriculture, improved fallow systems, well-managed plantations, and riparian strips—to meet a variety of human needs.
  • Restore ecological functionality. It restores the ecological functionality of the landscape, such as its richness as a habitat, its ability to contain erosion and floods, and its resilience to climate change and various disturbances. This can be done in many ways, one of which is to restore the landscape toward the pre-human disturbance or “original” vegetation, but other strategies may also be used.
  • Allow for multiple benefits. It generates a suite of ecosystem goods and services by intelligently and appropriately increasing tree cover across the landscape. In some places, trees are added to agricultural lands without forming a forest canopy in order to enhance food production, reduce erosion, provide shade, and produce firewood. In other places, trees are added to create a closed canopy forest capable of sequestering large amounts of carbon, protecting downstream water supplies, and providing rich wildlife habitat.
  • Recognize that a suite of interventions are possible. It embraces a wide range of strategies for restoring trees on the landscape. For instance, some strategies make way for “nature to take its course” (e.g., curtailing livestock grazing to allow trees to spontaneously regrow), while others involve very active human intervention (e.g., tree growing).
  • Involve stakeholders. It actively engages local stakeholders — including landowners, land managers, communities, civil society, governments, and the private sector—in decisions regarding restoration goals, implementation methods, and trade-offs. It is important that the restoration process respects local stakeholders’ rights, aligns with their land management needs, and provides them with benefits. Active, voluntary involvement of local stakeholders can lead to better buy-in, greater access to local knowledge, motivated land managers, and less need for external resources.
  • Tailor to local conditions. It adapts to fit local social, economic, and ecological contexts; there is no “one size fits all.”
  • Manage adaptively. It adjusts restoration strategies over time as environmental conditions, human knowledge, and societal values change. It leverages continuous monitoring and learning to make adjustments as the restoration process progresses.
  • Avoid conversion of natural ecosystems. It does not call for increasing tree cover beyond what would be ecologically appropriate for a particular location, and should not cause any loss or conversion of natural forests, grasslands, or other ecosystems (e.g., into tree or crop plantations). Restoration should complement, not undermine, ecosystem conservation efforts.