Foundational Forests II

As recently spotted by The Dirt, a new map showing areas of the world most amenable to forest regeneration was recently released by the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, World Resources Institute, South Dakota State University, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Interpreting this map is interesting, as the authors of the map state:

“the map does not indicate the location of individual restoration sites, only wider landscapes where restoration opportunities are more likely to be found. Nor does it indicate or prescribe any particular type of restoration intervention (e.g. spontaneous regrowth or planting). Its goal is to show lands with characteristics that indicate restoration opportunities.”

We would love to know what data sets and landscape characteristics are being overlaid here to formulate the opportunities.  Lacking this information, there’s a few hints from cross referencing the map with the related and similarly scaled Anthropogenic Biomes.

“The restoration opportunities are typically not located in areas of ongoing deforestation and degradation; they tend to occur where degradation and deforestation have already made their mark”

The team found globally dispersed mosaic forests (semi degraded forests mixed with human uses such as agriculture, residential, etc.) with a cumulative area of 1.5 billion hectares available for improvement and deliberate modification. These hybrid, patchwork forests might be the largest that can be grown to counter effects of climate change, air pollution, desertification, and many other uses – most of it some sort of non-pristine, well worn, miscellaneous and gritty in-between landscape…people, weeds, fields, roads, isolated factories, etc.

[Europe’s forests are particularly ripe for range of performance upgrades]

“These areas should not all be restored in the same fashion.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each forest landscape is unique and needs its own restoration design which responds in a balanced way to societal preferences and needs. Lands that are currently used for crop production or grazing, for example, are not suitable for wide-scale restoration.”

This touches on an ongoing design question:  how many customized, stacked programs can a foundational forest perform?  How many things can a deliberately constructed forest do?  Ownership and who manages the forest seems equally important in making that determination.

Perhaps the UN-REDD could invest in generating regional high performance landscape guidelines…for 21st century forests.

Incidentally, the U.S. Forest Service is currently investing $1.6 million to research the potentials and drawbacks of hybrid forests in Hawaii, after fighting an escalating Sisyphean battle to restore the forests to something they couldn’t.  Perhaps results gleaned from there might resolve some issues in San Francisco’s Mt. Sutro Forest.


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