Simply put, forest landscape restoration brings people together to identify, negotiate and put in place practices that optimise the environmental, social and economic benefits of forests and trees within a broader pattern of land uses. Recognizing that tree cover no longer dominates many tropical forest landscapes, and that land use has dramatically decreased the availability of forest goods and services, FLR focuses on restoring forest functionality. This means restoring the goods, services and ecological processes that forests can provide at the broader landscape level. It recognises that the livelihood and land-use strategies of the communities living in these landscapes are determined more by real-life trade-offs rather than any direct motivation to return forest landscapes to their original pristine state. FLR is hence an approach that seeks to put in place forest-based assets that are good for both people and the environment. It incorporates a number of existing rural development, conservation and natural resource management principles and works to restore multiple forest functions to degraded landscapes. However, there is no set blueprint for FLR, and restoring forest functionality to a landscape has to be built around a collaborative process of learning and adaptive management.
There are many examples worldwide where degraded forests have been restored, ranging from small sites to large areas. Some have resulted from conscious intervention to achieve a certain restoration outcome while others have occurred "naturally" from the abandonment of land uses that lead to forest loss. With a continued need to restore landscapes to productive levels, tools and methods are increasingly needed to help decision makers and forest practitioners implement this approach.