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Trees for the Forest

In a Nature feature, Rachel Cernansky explores the landscape of forest restoration efforts around the world, along with the potential pitfalls of poorly planned tree planting.

With billions of hectares of degraded land around the world, she reports, dozens of countries have committed to restoration in the coming years through the Bonn Challenge. But the most appropriate approaches for restoration remain complex and at times contentious. While some experts tout the benefits of natural regeneration, other scientists say certain sites require more extensive human intervention, raising additional issues around plant selection, placement, and genetic diversity.

"Many projects fail because they choose the wrong trees, use too few species, or are not managed for the long term," Cernansky writes. "Foresters and ecologists are realizing that for restoration efforts to succeed, they need to think more broadly — about matching trees to their location, about the effects on nearby insects and other animals, and about relationships with soil and the changing climate. In other words: the ecosystem."