IUCN Releases An Economic Framework for Analyzing Forest Landscape Restoration Decisions

16 July 2014 | News story

We depend on land for everything essential: food, water, shelter. When land loses its function and productivity - how should we go about restoring it? Where do we start? How shall we pay for it? A new framework for decision-making helps answer these questions, using the simple but powerful lens of economic analysis.  

We depend on our land for everything essential - food, water, shelter. Yet often our use of the land can make it less productive, less fit to provide for our needs and the needs of fellow species.

The disappearance of forests, the degradation of soil, the loss of clear, fresh water - these events can happen quickly or, more often, over the course of generations. Nevertheless, we can return lands to fertile, functional and productive states. But that requires some strategic thinking.

Across the globe there are more than two billion hectares of degraded land that offer opportunities for restoration.

Getting the most out of restoration will require making some difficult decisions about where, when, and how landscapes should be restored. For the practitioner the question arises: where to start and how to proceed? For the policy-maker: who will pay for it and which policies will encourage it? For the landowners: why should we get involved?

The answers to these and other questions must inevitably be formed on the basis of restoration’s expected impacts on ecosystem goods and services, the expected flow of costs and benefits - both public and private - and the needs and values of communities who surround or depend on the land.

IUCN and the World Resources Institute are pleased to present a tool to aid such decision-making: an economic, "return on investment" framework for analyzing restoration decisions. Based on well-worn principles of economic analysis, the framework allows for the assessment of a few key ecosystem goods and services and the economic impacts expected from different forest landscape restoration options. It will help decision makers understand the economic and ecosystem trade-offs of different restoration scenarios. And it can serve decision-making processes at the country, regional, or local level. 

“We can restore land at large scales and across diverse land uses,” says Michael Verdone, environmental economist at IUCN and lead author of the economic framework. “But there’s no ‘one right way’ to restore.” There are many interventions we can bring to a single plot of land, Verdone explains. “The ‘right’ land use transition will depend on the needs of the community – balancing the flow of costs and benefits of restoration to what is most called for.”

Visit our landing page on the Economic Framework to learn more and to download a short tutorial on the analysis based on IUCN’s experience in Rwanda. (You can find this tutorial at the top right of this page as well). A full report of the tool will be available soon. In the meantime you can write to flr@iucn.org for more detail.

The economic framework for restoration decision-making is part of a tool suite housed within the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) developed by IUCN and the World Resources Institute. This effort was made possible through support from UK aid and the British people.


Forest in Costarica