An approach for people and nature

"It is impossible to replace a pristine forest once it’s gone - but much of its structure and many of the functions it originally provided, like clean air and fresh water, can be regained. We need to protect the forests we have left and restore what we have lost."  - Stewart Maginnis, Director of Nature-Based Solutions, International Union for Conservation of Nature

Forest landscape restoration is the process of regaining ecological integrity and enhancing human well-being from degraded lands through the creation of multifaceted restored landscapes. There are many benefits of restoration, which can be balanced to serve the needs of the local, regional, or global community.  

For information about the many options for restoring land, check out the Restoration options page.

What are the benefits of restoration?


Access to clean, potable water is a human right that will be one of the defining needs of the next century, as human populations continue to grow and urbanize amid increasing climate changes. Restored landscapes in key watersheds can improve the quality and quantity of water reaching our cities to help meet the needs of the future. Most of the time restoring forests is a cost-effective water solution. In the US, a "watershed approach" to water security has been promoted since the 1990s, with New York City famoulsy avoiding $US 16 billion in water treatment costs through the restoration and preservation of its forested watershed. China is now planning to restore key watersheds serving its growing megacities using a forest landscape restoration approach. Projects in Beijing are already helping to meet the drinking water needs of nearly 21 million people. 


We depend on land for our food and shelter, but the quality of that land can determine our health in other ways as well. Most directly, restored lands protect us from natural disasters. Restored coastal forests and mangroves absorb dangerous storm surges across the tropics. In mountainous regions restored landscapes limit dangerous flash floods and landslides. Over the last few decades, South Korea has restored more than six million hectares of degraded sloping-lands, resulting in $11.23 billion in erosion control and $3.95 billion in landslide prevention benefits. But natural lands can improve our health in more subtle ways.  Access to green, natural areas, whether pristine or restored, have been found to improve child cognitive development and adult mental health and to ameliorate the symptoms of a variety of disorders, from depression to ADHD. See Green Cities: Good Health for more information.


Restoration brings tremendous economic benefits resulting from increased productivity on formely degraded lands. Reforested lands can produce more timber and non-timber forest products (such as fruits and nuts,  fish and game, medicinal plants, barks and fibres) and offer new livelihood opportunities for forest-dependent communities. In Costa Rica, restored forests have supported the ecotourism industry, offering more opportunities for forest recreation and wildlife watching. In just two years, restoration in the United States has produced more than 94 million cubic feet of timber sales and 6,000 new restoration jobs.


There are a number of restoration interventions that can improve the health and productivity of agricultural lands. In arid Niger, smallholder farmers restored more than five million hectares of semi-desert into productive open woodlands using a forest landscape restoration approach in the late 1990s. As a result of increased tree density in these woodlands, crop yields increased by more than 100 kilograms per hectare, producing enough cereals to feed an additional 2.5 million people a year. Restored landscapes can also offer increased fodder for livestock, particularly in dry climates.


The environmental benefits of restoration cannot be overstated. When vegetation returns to degraded and deforested lands, functioning ecosystems can return with them. Though it is difficult to restore the full diversity of plants and animals present on undisturbed land, restored landscapes can neverthless offer increased wildlife habitat, the linkage of existing forests or wildlife corridors, the buffering of protected natural areas, and increased or improve flows of water, carbon and other nutrients through an ecosystem. 


Welcoming trees and other vegetation back to deforested and degraded lands can mean more fuelwood for the world's poorest people, many of whom depend on forests to meet their daily needs.