Regaining ecological functions and enhancing well-being

Forest landscape restoration (FLR) is the ongoing process of regaining ecological functionality and enhancing human well-being across deforested or degraded forest landscapes. FLR is more than just planting trees – it is restoring a whole landscape to meet present and future needs and to offer multiple benefits and land uses over time. It is about:

  • Forests because it involves increasing the number and/or health of trees in an area;
  • Landscapes because it involves entire watersheds, jurisdictions, or even countries in which many land uses interact; and
  • Restoration because it involves bringing back the biological productivity of an area in order to achieve any number of benefits for people and the planet.

It is long-term because it requires a multi-year vision of the ecological functions and benefits to human well-being that restoration will produce although tangible deliverables such as jobs, income and carbon sequestration begin to flow right away.

While FLR sometimes involves the opportunity to restore large contiguous tracts of degraded or fragmented forest land, the majority of restoration opportunities are found on or adjacent to agricultural or pastoral land. In these situations, restoration must complement and not displace existing land uses; this results in a patchwork or mosaic of different land uses including: agriculture, agroforestry systems and improved fallow systems, ecological corridors, areas of forests and woodlands, and river or lakeside plantings to protect waterways.

Successful FLR is forward-looking and dynamic, focussing on strengthening the resilience of landscapes and creating future options to adjust and further optimise ecosystem goods and services as societal needs change or new challenges arise. It integrates a number of guiding principles, including:

  • Focus on landscapes – FLR takes place within and across entire landscapes, not individual sites, representing mosaics of interacting land uses and management practices under various tenure and governance systems. It is at this scale that ecological, social and economic priorities can be balanced.
  • Maintain and enhance natural ecosystems within landscapes – FLR does not lead to the conversion or destruction of natural forests or other ecosystems. It enhances the conservation, recovery, and sustainable management of forests and other ecosystems. 
  • Engage stakeholders and support participatory governance  – FLR actively engages stakeholders at different scales, including vulnerable groups, in planning and decision making regarding landuse, restoration goals and strategies, implementation methods, benefit sharing, monitoring and review processes.
  • Tailor to the local context using a variety of approaches – FLR uses a variety of approaches that are adapted to the local social, cultural, economic and ecological values, needs, and landscape history. It draws on latest science and best practice, and traditional and indigenous knowledge, and applies that information in the context of local capacities and existing or new governance structures.
  • Restore multiple functions for multiple benefits – FLR interventions aim to restore multiple ecological, social and economic functions across a landscape and generate a range of ecosystem goods and services that benefit multiple stakeholder groups.
  • Manage adaptively for long-term resilience – FLR seeks to enhance the resilience of the landscape and its stakeholders over the medium and long-term. Restoration approaches should enhance species and genetic diversity and be adjusted over time to reflect changes in climate and other environmental conditions, knowledge, capacities, stakeholder needs, and societal values. As restoration progresses, information from monitoring activities, research, and stakeholder guidance should be integrated into management plans.