Understanding the global potential

There is tremendous opportunity for restoration across the planet. To serve the formation of the Bonn Challenge goal, IUCN commissioned a global analysis of restoration opportunity, undertaken with WRI and the University of Maryland. This analysis produced the World of Opportunity map, which found up to two billion hectares of degraded land that could offer opportunities for restoration. 

How the map was made

We first mapped where forests and woodlands could grow according to climatic conditions — their potential extent without human influence. Dry areas such as the Sahel were not included because of their very low potential forest density, even though trees play an important role in them. Second, we mapped the current extent of forests and woodlands. Forest maps were derived from global 250m resolution satellite imagery. Third, we identified restoration opportunities by comparing the maps of potential and current forest extent in light of information about current land use. Intact forest landscapes and managed natural forests and woodlands were considered to have no need or potential for restoration. Fourth, we considered constraints on restoration by mapping human pressure as a combination of population density and land use. Restoration opportunities in remote, unpopulated areas were also identified.

Real limitations: a global map not suitable for national analysis

A global map is great for influencing international policy and decision-making. It's not great for national level planning. This large analysis used only globally consistent datasets at a 1-kilometer resolution — and was not designed to guide precisely where restoration should occur or to decide what interventions may be appropriate for a particular location. Areas of large opportunity on the global map just suggest places where a more refined analysis is warranted. 

This global analysis must be complemented by national and sub-national assessments that consider local ecological conditions, engage local experts and stakeholders, use local definitions, and incorporate richer and higher-resolution data. To help with this, IUCN and the World Resources Institute developed a Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) that is now being deployed in nearly a dozen countries across the world.

Read more about ROAM.

Looking for national-level maps? 

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How degraded land was defined in the global analysis

Deforested and degraded forest lands were divided into four categories based on the different opportunities for restoration they offer (with resolution of one square kilometer):

  • Wide-scale restoration – Less than 10 people per square kilometer and potential to support closed forest.
  • Mosaic restoration – Moderate human pressure (between 10 and 100 people per square kilometer).
  • Remote restoration – Very low human pressure (density of less than one person per square kilometer within a 500km radius).
  • Croplands – Intensive human pressure (over 100 people per square kilometer).