Choosing the right tool for your forest landscape restoration project just got a little easier

Forest landscape restoration practitioners are faced with a lot of decisions. Now, a new framework will help them choose how to assess the ecosystem services that need to be considered in the course of their project. With a new journal article and accompanying infographic, the choice has never been easier.

Rural forest ecosystems surrounding Salme village, Nepal

Picture a toolbox… a real one. When you look inside, you see a hammer, a spanner, a measuring tape, maybe a wrench or two, and dozens of other items. These are all useful tools for different projects. But you wouldn’t use a wrench to remove a nail. Instead, you might choose the hammer or perhaps the spanner. This is a straightforward scenario for selecting the proper tool.

Now, imagine your goal is to measure the potential benefits of ecosystem services for your forest landscape restoration (FLR) project. There are many great ecosystem services evaluation tools from which to choose, but how do you know which tool will best suit your needs?  

To help land managers with sorting, evaluating and filtering out tools to achieve their FLR goals, IUCN and partners created a decision framework to help select the best tool(s) for each specific landscape restoration project. It is aptly named the Restoration Ecosystem Service Tool Selector (RESTS).

The RESTS development team meticulously narrowed down the number of ecosystem services assessment tools from dozens to a streamlined selection of 13 (i.e. ARIES, Envision, InVEST, MIMES, etc.). Each of these tools was originally developed to quantify and/or monetise ecosystem services, often over time and across landscapes. From there, the RESTS framework helps decision makers assess each tool through carefully selected criteria and questions which are then extrapolated in a prescribed, iterative and deductive fashion. Each ecosystem services assessment tool is therefore put through a vetting process, with FLR decision-makers posing questions such as… Does this tool cover the right landscape scale? Is it affordable? What are the time requirements? And so on.

In a recent journal article on the RESTS framework published in Forest Ecosystems, the FLR decision maker’s dilemma is illustrated:

"Clear and credible information is needed to determine where restoration is most needed, guide the selection of alternative scenarios, develop policies to incentivize restoration on private land, identify restoration options on public lands, and overcome institutional and policy bottlenecks. However, as both the number of ecosystem service assessment tools and the diversity of needed restoration decisions continue to grow it is difficult for decision makers and analysts to know which tools can best meet their informational needs."

A special attribute of this selection framework is that it functions through a process of elimination. RESTS assumes that the decision maker starts with a variety of ecosystem services assessment tools and eliminates them individually as they proceed. Therefore, rather than prescribing a one-size-fits-all tool for a project, this framework helps the decision maker whittle down options until the right tool is identified.

To apply your own scenario to the RESTS framework, compare your needs with the examples in our RESTS infographic or the journal article. This progressively deductive process will help you narrow down and address your customised situation to identify the ecosystem assessment tools that best suit your needs.

Another tool to add to your FLR toolbox just in time for the International Day of Forests (21 March).

Work area: 
Forest Landscape Restoration
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