Landscape restoration projects are gaining momentum all over the world. Global and regional commitments like the Bonn Challenge, Initiative 20x20, the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) and the Trillion Trees Campaign are driving large scale investments in restoration. But with limited information, project implementers, funders and decision makers struggle to decipher which restoration activities are solving problems and which pose risks.

Restoration projects need monitoring to track and measure progress toward achieving their intended goals. Monitoring creates evidence for project impacts, allows implementers to decide to continue or change their restoration approaches and builds trust between funders and implementers.

So how do we monitor restoration? There is no one-size-fits-all approach: monitoring methods need to be adapted to the size of the area being monitored, the types of restoration being implemented, the conditions of the ecosystem and the needs of people involved. Because there are so many different tools available, it can be overwhelming to figure out which ones are best for each project.

In response to these challenges, Climate Focus and World Resources Institute developed the Restoration Monitoring Tools Guide in partnership with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration Task Force on Monitoring and members of the Global Restoration Observatory (GRO). The Tools Guide explains how to conduct effective restoration monitoring presents real-world applications of monitoring tools and helps users identify the best tools for their goals. The five essential steps for restoration monitoring (below) provide a framework for implementing an effective monitoring system.

The five essential steps for effective restoration monitoring are:

1) Define the area of interest

The geographic boundary of the area being monitored is clearly delineated to ensure spatial accuracy and consistency for measuring progress over time.

2) Establish a clear and consistent set of indicators

A set of variables and/or metrics are used to measure progress over time and determine the extent to which defined objectives are being met.

3) Establish a baseline

Baseline data for the chosen indicators is collected prior to interventions to enable comparison to conditions after interventions. Without a baseline, the extent to which the interventions affected change cannot be measured.

4) Collect sustainable and reproducible input data

To monitor progress over time, data on the chosen indicators must be collected at repeated intervals. To facilitate this, data should be cost-effective, comparable, and consistent across time and space. When possible, data should be validated using a transparent method to ensure the accuracy of the information and its parameters.

5) Report results

Progress should be reported to decision-makers and other stakeholders in a format that is clear and easy to understand to help them determine the extent to which defined objectives are being met and adapt approaches as needed.

The Tools Guide’s ToolFinder is an interactive web app that helps users find the right tools to monitor their restoration activities. Answers in the ToolFinder point users to a selection of possible tools and more information about each such as the main uses of the tool, the scales at which it can be used, languages in which it is available and whether there is a cost to using the tool.

The tools that are featured in the Guide were selected because they are currently ready to use, are specifically relevant to restoration, are adaptable to multiple geographies and support at least one of the essential steps for restoration monitoring. The Guide currently focuses on terrestrial restoration monitoring, but new tools and additional ecosystems may be included in the future.

By providing monitoring steps, tools and case studies, the Tools Guide supports restoration efforts that are effective and impactful. Monitoring is critical to realizing the potential long-term climate, biodiversity and social benefits of restoration. When done effectively, it can support the transformation of degraded landscapes — and help communicate the potential of restoration projects by demonstrating what they have accomplished.


Cover image by Serrah Galos/WRI