Since COP21 in Paris this past December, countries around the globe have committed to bring more than 85 million hectares of degraded land into restoration by 2020. In Latin America and the Caribbean, nearly 28 million hectares have been committed to Initiative 20x20 since its launch in December 2014 – quickly surpassing its 20 million hectare goal. In Africa, 13 countries have committed 41 million hectares since the launch of AFR100 at COP21 – approaching half of the goal of 100 million hectares committed by 2030.

So, when it comes to restoration, our question now is no longer what, why, or where, but rather how?

What Is Forest Landscape Restoration?

By “forest landscape restoration” we mean the long-term process of regaining ecological functionality and enhancing human well-being across deforested or degraded forest landscapes. It is about “forests” because it involves increasing the number and/or health of trees in an area.  It is about “landscapes” because it involves entire watersheds, jurisdictions, or even countries in which many land uses interact.  It is about “restoration” because it involves recovering the biological productivity of an area in order to achieve any number of benefits for people and the planet. Some of these benefits include improved soil fertility and food security, increased natural forest cover for watershed protection, mitigation of climate change, protection of biodiversity, creation of green jobs and more.

It is with this question in mind that WRI developed The Restoration Diagnostic. The Diagnostic is a structured method for identifying which key success factors (KSFs) for restoration are already in place, which are partially in place, and which are missing within a country or landscape that has restoration opportunities.  When applied prior to a restoration effort, the Diagnostic can help decision-makers and restoration supporters focus their efforts on the most important factors to get in place before large amounts of human, financial or political capital are invested.  When applied periodically every few years once a restoration effort is underway, the Diagnostic can help implementers adjust and refine their policies and practices as a means of adaptive management.

Learning from Real-World Examples

The history of forest landscape restoration from around the world provides insights into what works and what does not. These insights can inform the design and execution of future restoration initiatives, increasing the likelihood of success. Recognizing lessons from history, we identified and reviewed 16 forest landscape restoration case studies from around the world.  These case studies span both developed and developing countries across five continents.  Some started in recent decades, while others started more than a century ago.  Some span millions of hectares, while others span just a few thousand.

Through analysis of these case examples and available literature on the history of restoration, we identified a suite of KSFs that when present―either already present naturally or because people had taken steps to make them present―increase the likelihood that restoration will successfully occur. However, no case example exhibited every single KSF.

3 Themes Necessary for Successful Restoration

Three common themes emerged from our analysis:

  1. A clear motivation.

  2. Decision-makers, landowners and/or citizens were inspired or motivated to restore forests and trees on landscapes. For example, in countries such as South Korea, Vietnam and the United States, citizens and governments were motivated to restore forest landscapes to prevent soil erosion, buffer against tidal surges and meet wood shortages.
  3. Enabling conditions in place.

  4. A sufficient number of ecological, market, policy, social and/or institutional conditions were in place that created a favorable context for forest landscape restoration. For example, in the New England region of the United States, as well as in the Panama Canal watershed, ecological and social conditions were ripe due to an abundance of tree species and seeds, as well as diverse actors who came together around a common concern about potential water scarcity and watershed deforestation.
  5. Capacity and resources for sustained implementation.

  6. Capacity and resources existed and were mobilized to implement forest landscape restoration on a sustained basis on the ground. For example, in partnership with the World Bank, the Chinese government created a restoration plan that included both technical design and capacity development, and in Ethiopia, World Vision and the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund provided financial and technical support to restore native vegetation in the Humbo region.


These themes helped to shape the Diagnostic and the Restoration Diagnostic Assessment Tool, an Excel-based tool to help decision makers, managers and analysts apply the Diagnostic. By using the Diagnostic stakeholders can identify which key success factors exist in their landscape, which are partially in place, and which are absent.

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Click to enlarge.

This in turn helps stakeholders identify which policies, practices and incentives are needed to trigger restoration at scale. For example, see a completed Diagnostic for Rwanda below.

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Click to enlarge.

Get Involved

This tool, as well as an overview of the Restoration Diagnostic itself, will be showcased online via webinar in the coming months. Aimed to help those who will apply the Diagnostic to candidate areas for forest landscape restoration, this webinar will go into a deep dive on how to use the tool and Diagnostic, as well as leave ample time for questions and answers based on real world examples.

For more information and updates on the webinar, follow the Global Restoration Initiative on Facebook and Twitter.