Story | 08 Jul, 2010

One billion hectares of lost forests could be restored

“Across the globe lie more than a billion hectares of lost and degraded forest land that could be restored”, according to the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, which includes IUCN. It’s a vast area – an area greater than China – with the potential to enrich communities, their environment and enterprises large and small. It’s an opportunity we can’t afford to miss.

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Photo: Global Partnership for Forest Landscape Restoration

In mankind’s time on Earth, the area of forest on the planet has almost halved. South of the boreal forest that stretches across northern latitudes from Alaska and Canada to Scandinavia and Russia, only a fifth of the world’s forests remain undisturbed.

However, in countries across the world, there are pockets of damaged and degraded forests that we can bring back to life. Both local and large-scale restoration projects have already made a dramatic difference to landscapes and livelihoods. And the techniques applied there could have a similar effect on other damaged landscapes.

The prelimary findings of our assessment indicate that there is a total area of lost and degraded forest lands of more than a billion hectares that is suitable and available for restoration – an area greater than that of China.

These areas should not all be restored in the same fashion. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each forest landscape is unique and needs its own restoration design which responds in a balanced way to local preferences and needs. Lands that are currently used for crop production or grazing, for example, are not suitable for broad-scale restoration. They may, however, offer opportunities for restoration in mixed land-use mosaics. Many historically deforested areas belong to this category.

The opportunities we have identified represent a vital piece of the climate change jigsaw; one that we can put in place immediately, and which allows all countries, not just those who still have forests, to help bring landscapes back to life.