In the last twelve years the restoration of forest landscapes has gradually gained in importance within WWF, its partners and numerous other organisations, conventions and political processes. While small-scale forest restoration efforts have existed in WWF probably for decades, it is only since 2000 that the organisation began working on “forest landscape restoration” (FLR), defined as: “A planned process that aims to regain ecological integrity and enhance human wellbeing in deforested or degraded landscapes”.1 The important and novel dimensions in this approach being: a) to link restoration to the landscape scale, b) the aim to tackle and reverse deforestation or forest degradation and c) the intention to balance both ecological and human needs (wellbeing) within a forested landscape.
In 2000, WWF introduced forest landscape restoration within its global forest programme (the “Forest for Life Target Driven Programme”), by setting the following target: By 2005, at least 20 forest landscape restoration initiatives underway in the world’s threatened, deforested or degraded forest regions to enhance ecological integrity and human wellbeing.”
In response to demand from the field programmes and further to five years of experience implementing forest landscape restoration programmes, WWF coordinated in 2004-5 the production of a handbook or guidance manual on forest landscape restoration. This world-wide review of expertise, processes and outstanding issues was published by Springer in 2005. The book has generated significant interest and has been translated into Chinese. After 2005, with the end of the “target-driven programmes”, while there was no longer a central programme for the restoration of forests within WWF, forest restoration work continued throughout the WWF Network. Furthermore, a node of expertise on forest restoration remained in WWF France which manages or contribute to some forest restoration field projects (notably in Madagascar and New Caledonia) and has staff with relevant international expertise (Dr. Daniel Vallauri, Hubert Géraux and Jean-Baptiste Roelens).
However, the lack of a coordinated global programme on forest landscape restoration has meant that it is more difficult to identify initiatives working on forest landscape restoration, to promote the approach as a viable contribution to conservation, and to collect and exchange lessons, tools and knowledge emerging from implementation.
In this context, WWF France commissioned this review with the specific intent to:
1. Extract lessons learnt to date, particularly in the last 5-6 year period, from WWF’s work on the restoration of forest landscapes.
2. Inform future restoration work, both within the WWF Network and beyond.
A desk review, interviews and questionnaires all contributed to the production of this report. The ten sites selected and highlighted in this report were chosen based on prior knowledge of the programme. Furthermore, six of these ten ecoregions are biodiversity hotspots as per the commonly agreed definition (rating levels of endemism and extent of threat3). These sites by no means cover all of WWF’s efforts on the restoration of forests in landscapes.
A wealth of information emerged from this shortlist of projects. Some lessons were very specific to the different project/programme locations, while others were common to several initiatives or regions.
The overarching lessons are presented according to an organising framework1 for planning and implementing the restoration of forests in landscapes. More detail on each lesson can be found in Section 3 of the report.
Lessons on initiating a restoration programme
– Lesson 1: Understanding the local context – both socio-economic and ecological – is critical for local acceptance and sustainability
– Lesson 2: Engaging stakeholders and partners, and negotiating trade offs, although time consuming, are key to securing long term success
– Lesson 3: A strategic approach to the design and development of forest landscape restoration initiatives is preferable, but frequently opportunities dictate project development, with ensuing repercussions (on duration, stakeholder engagement, planning..)
– Lesson 4: Long term engagement is essential in the restoration of forest landscapes
– Lesson 5: WWF has a specific added value in facilitating partnerships to launch the large scale, long term initiatives necessary for the restoration of forest landscapes
Lessons on defining restoration needs and linking restoration to a large scale conservation vision
– Lesson 6: Addressing socio-economic needs is imperative to long term success in the restoration of forest landscapes
– Lesson 7: The purposes of restoration in WWF work are diverse : a typology can be defined to better increase the understanding of this tool within the organization and beyond
– Lesson 8: Scaling up from sites to landscapes presents significant operational challenges
– Lesson 9: While maps and hectare-based targets are valuable in planning, they can be very sensitive and require careful interpretation
– Lesson 10: Locally-adapted techniques are critical to acceptability and sustainability of the effort
– Lesson 11: The landscape approach to conservation has inherited the challenges of forest landscape restoration Lessons on defining restoration strategy and tactics
– Lesson 12: Endpoints for restoration must be clearly defined
– Lesson 13: When restoring forest landscapes, constant flux rather than stability characterises the situation and therefore, there is a need for flexibility
Lessons on implementing restoration
– Lesson 14: Small scale restoration has a role to play within the larger landscape (demonstrative pilot action) but such interventions need to be carefully designed with the wider landscape in mind
– Lesson 15: Further knowledge of indigenous species is needed in most cases
– Lesson 16: Land tenure is a critical element in ensuring the sustainability of the restoration of forest landscapes
– Lesson 17: There are numerous conservation side benefits to forest landscape restoration in addition to restoring forest functionality
– Lesson 18: Success breeds success
Lessons on piloting systems towards fully restored ecosystems
– Lesson 19: A long timeframe, at least ten years, is necessary to implement a forest landscape restoration programme and to see visible results
– Lesson 20: Attaching a value to a restored landscape is important to ensure land use decisions and trade offs can be adequately informed
– Lesson 21: Embedding forest landscape restoration in existing frameworks will help secure its financial and political sustainability
– Lesson 22: Collecting and recording experiences and lessons is important to build up a solid expertise and knowledge base
– Lesson 23: Designing and implementing an effective monitoring framework for the restoration of forest landscapes remains a challenge
Many recommendations can be made as a result of the lessons emerging from this report, however we chose to focus on six quite specific ones, three internal to WWF and three for the wider conservation community.
Recommendations for the WWF Network:
– Recommendation 1: The institution should integrate more explicitly the contribution that the restoration of forests in landscapes is making to WWF’s broader goals (as defined in the Global Programme Framework). The restoration of forest landscapes has a very clear role to play in contributing to WWF’s overarching goals. However, this link is not explicit within the WWF organising frameworks and therefore, valuable efforts on the restoration of forest landscapes are not appearing as contributions to the wider objectives of the organisation. Efforts are needed to better align these restoration actions to the overall goals and in turn to effectively collect these contributions to the overall programme.
– Recommendation 2: WWF should promote positive experiences and field stories. There are many interesting and positive forest landscape restoration experiences in WWF, many lessons emerging from/for the WWF Network, and also good stories to communicate to the wider public, yet these are not sufficiently promoted and shared – both within the Network and beyond. WWF offices should be encouraged to
communicate these stories.
– Recommendation 3: The WWF Network should undertake a needs assessment to identify specific gaps and tools needed to further support forest landscape restoration efforts. While there is significant experience, there are clearly gaps and areas where efforts are being duplicated throughout the Network. The implementation
of forest restoration in landscapes also generated the need for new areas of expertise and methodologies for the WWF Network (on social approaches, agriculture and forest techniques), some of which are not common in the WWF culture, and require support at least to create an effective link to relevant organisations (e.g.: Care, Oxfam, agriculture and research centres…). A comprehensive assessment of needs would help to identify gaps and also eliminate redundancies. This is all the more important as staff changes are likely
to occur over the lengthy duration needed for the restoration of forest landscapes.
Recommendations for the wider conservation community:
– Recommendation 4: Build on lessons learnt. This report has identified a vast array of very useful lessons emerging from the last ten years of WWF’s work on the restoration of forest landscapes around the globe. These lessons are very pertinent and WWF should disseminate them widely and apply them as relevant in its various conservation programmes. As shown through this report, the restoration of forest landscapes remains an important element in large scale conservation. Learning from the past will help to strengthen future efforts, within WWF and beyond.
– Recommendation 5: Relevant institutions should make a concerted effort to mobilise long term efforts and resources towards forest landscape restoration. Achieving real and lasting impact in restoring forest landscapes takes time (at least 10 years), human resources and a diversity of partners from different backgrounds. Partners should pool resources in priority areas for restoration in order to achieve the scale of
– Recommendation 6: Conservationists should determine whether forest landscape restoration or the landscape approach is the best approach in a given ecoregion. There remains some confusion between the two approaches, which clearly exhibit significant overlap. However, they are not one and the same. The restoration of forest landscapes assumes that within a landscape the single most important conservation
action needed is the restoration of forest functionality. This will be particularly important where forest degradation and/or loss are significant and where pressures on forests are high. It will also be important where priority species are facing extinction because of habitat loss. In many cases, however, this is not or should not be the main conservation thrust, but instead the landscape approach where a mix of tools (which may include restoration interventions) is applied to maintain and sustainably manage into the future a functional, forested landscape, would make more sense. In order to secure successful forest landscape
restoration initiatives, a vital step is to ensure that the approach is applied where it is really needed.