Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Toolbox

Forest Restoration and Rehabilitation

Welcome to the Forest Restoration and Rehabilitation Module, which is intended for people involved in afforestation and reforestation programmes. The module establishes the difference between forest restoration and rehabilitation and sets out the main steps involved in both.

The module provides basic and more detailed information on forest restoration and rehabilitation, as well as links to key tools and case studies of effective restoration and rehabilitation efforts.

Forest restoration and rehabilitation contributes to SDGs:

Forest restoration and forest rehabilitation are challenging long-term endeavours that require thoughtful planning, implementation and monitoring. While they are closely related, a conceptual distinction may be made between them. The purpose of forest restoration is to restore a degraded forest to its original state – that is, to re-establish the presumed structure, productivity and species diversity of the forest originally present at a site. The purpose of forest rehabilitation is to restore the capacity of degraded forest land to deliver forest products and services. Forest rehabilitation re-establishes the original productivity of the forest and some, but not necessarily all, of the plant and animal species thought to be originally present at a site. Both forest restoration and forest rehabilitation are implemented on sites or in landscapes where forest loss has caused a decline in the quality of environmental services. They aim to strengthen the resilience of forest sites and landscapes and thereby to keep future land-use and management options open.

An emerging concept is forest landscape restoration (FLR), an approach to forest restoration that involves stakeholders in all affected land-use sectors as well as participatory decision-making processes. FLR is an approach to managing the dynamic and often complex interactions between the people, natural resources and land uses that comprise a landscape. It makes use of collaborative approaches to harmonize the many land-use decisions of stakeholders with the aims of restoring ecological integrity and enhancing the development of local communities as they strive to increase and sustain the benefits they derive from the management of their land.

Forest restoration and rehabilitation may be carried out on unproductive or abandoned agricultural land, deforested grasslands, brushlands, scrublands or barren areas, and in understocked or degraded forests. Forests may be restored and rehabilitated by protective measures (e.g. protection from fire or grazing and erosion control), measures to accelerate natural recovery (e.g. through direct seeding or by planting seedlings in degraded primary or secondary forests), measures to assist natural regeneration (e.g. through weed control on degraded lands and marginal agricultural sites), and the planting of native or introduced trees in single-species or mixed-species plantations, in agroforestry production systems and as trees outside forests.

Successful, ecologically sound, socially acceptable and economically viable forest restoration and rehabilitation initiatives should take into account the following

10 key guiding principles

10 key guiding principles

  1. Select a suitable site or landscape, including the analysis and evaluation of current land uses and land tenure/ownership, and identify involved stakeholders.
  2. Analyse and evaluate the drivers of deforestation or forest degradation.
  3. Engage stakeholders, discuss long-term goals of forest restoration considering the interests of all stakeholder groups, and draft a preliminary restoration/rehabilitation plan.
  4. Develop a restoration management plan, including:
    • preparing a topographic land-use map, including a designation of forest functions, assessment of road accessibility, existence of natural regeneration and needs for planting;
    • agreeing on restoration/rehabilitation objectivess
    • selecting the restoration/rehabilitation method  
    • choosing the species to be used, and establishing a nursery and
    • assessing possible positive and negative social and environmental impacts.
  5. Collect seeds, produce seedlings in nurseries and prepare for planting.
  6. Plant trees.
  7. Assess capacity-building needs and plan for the necessary training.
  8. Establish realistic time schedules and plan for financial requirements.
  9. Monitor restored/rehabilitated areas, and conduct maintenance activities as required
  10. Consider possible climate-change impacts.