Global effort to restore 150 million hectares of deforested land

Posted: 5 September 2011

A global effort to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2020 has been launched in Bonn, Germany.

The announcement came during the Bonn Challenge Ministerial Roundtable, where a select group of government officials, business leaders, and international forest experts met from 1st-2nd September to catalyze support for global forest and landscape restoration.

Forest restoration map
Click on image to enlarge. Credit: Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, World Resources Institute, South Dakota State University, International Union for Conservation of Nature. September, 2011.

At the meeting, Göran Persson, former Prime Minister of Sweden, proposed a new Global Restoration Council to help galvanize action for forest and landscape restoration and build support to achieve The Bonn Challenge. The Council will be facilitated by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“Restoring 150 million hectares of degraded lands represents an exciting and largely untapped opportunity to create more jobs and economic growth, while also protecting our climate,” said Prime Minister Persson, who is also a member of WRI’s board of directors. “I am delighted to be announcing this new Council to raise attention and generate action to strengthen our forests, our economies, our climate, and our lives. I look forward to working with world leaders, businesses, and other colleagues in an effort that will send a strong signal that forest and land restoration must be pursued globally.”

The Bonn Challenge builds on a new global assessment identifying that more than 2 billion hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded lands are available for restoration. This assessment, carried out by WRI, the South Dakota State University, and IUCN on behalf of the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, nearly doubles the previous estimate, reflecting greater precision and a better understanding of the conditions needed for forests to grow.

“Forest restoration is big idea that carries many benefits. It will improve food security, enhance biodiversity, protect our climate, and generate jobs,” said Manish Bapna, interim President for WRI. “With this new 150 million hectare target – and support from leaders like Mr. Persson — we have a great opportunity to take action that will enhance the resilience of people and nature.”

Successful afforestion on the edge of the Kubuqi Desert, Inner Mongolia
Successful afforestion on the edge of the Kubuqi Desert, Inner Mongolia.

More than two billion hectares worldwide offer opportunities for restoration — an area larger than South America. Most of these lands are 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, smallholder 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 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.

Restoring 150 million hectares of land reflects a significant contribution to implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Target 15 and the REDD-plus agreement of the UNFCCC. The CBD Target 15 calls for the restoration of at least 15 percent of degraded ecosystems by 2020, and the REDD-Plus goal is to slow, halt and reverse forest cover and carbon loss, including through the enhancement of forest carbon stocks. 

A nearly $30 million grant from USAID is to underwrite a five-year programme led by WWF-Nepal that will mobilize the efforts of international and local NGOs to protect critical forests and forest dependent communities in Nepal. The programme, titled “Hariyo Ban Nepal ko Dhan” (Healthy Green Forests are the Wealth of Nepal), aims to achieve its goals through three linked areas of work: biodiversity conservation, sustainable landscapes, and climate adaptation. USAID’s $29.9 million grant will be focussed around the Terai Arc Landscape in southern Nepal and the north-south Chitwan-Annapurna Landscape running from the high Himalayas to the Terai.

See also: World's ten most threatened forests listed at launch of a special year