Over the last centuries, vast forest areas have been cleared as agriculture has spread and human populations have grown. Around 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 untold benefits to people and the planet.
Restored lands support livelihoods and biodiversity by supplying clean water, reducing erosion, providing wildlife habitat, biofuel, and other forest products. Forests and trees mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon. Trees in agricultural landscapes can enhance soil fertility, conserve soil moisture, and boost food production.
Restoration opportunities can be found everywhere, but are mainly 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, small-holder 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 actively 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.
This global assessment is a first step in starting restoration on the ground – but its scale is large and it’s guidance is general. National and subnational level assessments of opportunity are required to refine the picture.
Learn more about the effort to refine this picture – and develop national and sub-national level assessments of restoration opportunity.