Assessing the Potential for Forest Landscape Restoration

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Assessing the Potential for Forest Landscape Restoration to Contribute to Poverty Alleviation, Climate Change Mitigation & Sustainable Forest Management


Forests once covered almost twice the area that they do today. Today the loss is continuing at the rapid pace of roughly 13 million has per year. While the focus of the international forest and climate debate has been on avoiding further deforestation and degradation of forests in developing, often tropical, countries, these discussions have begun to acknowledge the potential for forest restoration to enhance carbon stocks and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Forests can recover. Restoration of degraded lands is receiving increasing attention because of growing demand for forest products and bioenergy, and for the potential to create socio-economic opportunities, increase carbon densities, contribute to food security, and adapt to climate change.
The amount of land in need of restoration appears to be huge. Until now, however, very little was known about the scope, extent, geographical variation, and priorities of the restoration potential.


This activity, implemented by World Resources Institute and IUCN, on behalf of the Forest Landscape Restoration Global Partnership, aimed to assess the potential for forest landscape restoration worldwide and create awareness of this potential among decision-makers and the public. 
The project used existing knowledge and spatial imagery to:

  • Assess the scope and scale of the opportunity for restoration of degraded forest landscapes around the world
  • Provide a basis for identifying restoration priorities
  • Highlight existing examples from around the world
  • Describe weaknesses and gaps in the assessment and underlying data
  • Propose next steps

A range of possible restoration purposes will be considered including restoration of ecosystem services, increasing carbon density, and creating of livelihood opportunities.


Preliminary findings from this global assessment indicated that there is a total area of lost and degraded forest lands of more than 1 billion hectares worldwide that is suitable and available for restoration – an area greater than that of China. 

Further research increased that area to more than 2 billion hectares.

The activity authors have produced a  map showing where global forests have great potential for recovery. While many maps show forest loss, this one is the first of its kind to show areas where forests could be regained. This has significant implications for climate negotiators that are working to reduce and reverse carbon emissions from forests.

  • An estimated billion and a half hectares of deforested and degraded forest land offer opportunities for forest landscape restoration, either wide-scale or mosaic type. About two thirds of the potential is o