Over the last several centuries, vast forest areas have been cleared as agriculture has spread and human populations have grown. About 30 percent of global forest cover has been completely cleared and a further 20 percent has been degraded. Breaking the spiral of loss and degradation and restoring these lands would bring many benefits.
Luckily, there are many opportunities in the world for restoring these landscapes and improve both human livelihoods and ecological integrity. The Atlas of Forest Landscape Restoration Opportunities by the World Resources Institute represents a first-ever global approximation of where degraded forest lands have the potential to be restored–opportunities to reduce poverty, improve food security, mitigate climate change, and protect the environment.
More than two billion hectares worldwide offer opportunities for restoration – an area larger than South America. Most of these lands are in tropical and temperate areas.
- One and a half billion hectares would be best-suited for mosaic restoration, in which forests and trees are combined with other land uses, including agroforestry, smallholder agriculture, and settlements.
- Up to about half a billion hectares would be suitable for wide-scale restoration of closed forests.
- In addition to these two billion hectares, there are 200 million hectares of unpopulated lands, mainly in the far northern boreal forests, that have been degraded by fire. These areas would likely be difficult to restore due to their remoteness.
- Croplands and densely populated rural areas on former forest lands amount to a further one billion hectares. They do not offer extensive restoration opportunities in terms of area, but some of these lands would benefit from having trees planted in strategic places to protect and enhance agricultural productivity and other ecosystem functions.
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