A Research Agenda to Bridge Gaps in Knowledge and Know-how to Implement Forest and Landscape Restoration
In January 2015, I was invited to present a brief status report on forest and landscape restoration at a Meeting on Forests, Climate Change and Development at the British Academy in London. While preparing my message, I consulted with several of my co-authors to make a list of the gaps in knowledge and know-how that hinder the policies and practice of FLR. After the meeting, while spending several months in Brazil working with Pedro Brancalion and his students, a manuscript began to take form. As our thoughts became more organized, we invited a broader group of FLR thinkers and actors to contribute ideas and to help structure them into a knowledge agenda.
We presented the knowledge agenda from the perspective of a policy or decision maker. Many countries are seeking ways to integrate restoration strategies into sustainable development, climate change, and conservation agendas. So, we assumed that the broad goals of FLR are goals that national leaders aspire to. We described six major interdependent policy goals and key knowledge-related constraints that prevent these goals from being realized. For each policy goal we provided three research questions to address these constraints and guide policy development. In addition, we indicated the relevance of these issues to farmers, municipalities, and states.
The broad research agenda we proposed is beginning to see some traction. Models are being developed to prioritize areas where restoration will achieve the greatest multiple benefits, researchers are development frameworks for assessing the cost-effectiveness of restoration interventions, and monitoring frameworks are being developed. Our paper was written at a critical juncture in time when the focus of FLR was beginning to shift from generating commitments and motivating aspirations at national and international scales to the planning and implementation of interventions within landscapes. Practitioners and funding agencies began to express concerns regarding the economic costs and benefits of FLR and the long-term effectiveness of different approaches, practices, and governance structures.
There is still a long way to go, but the research community has clearly become more engaged with policy makers and practitioners. This engagement focuses on capacity development and operational translation of the holistic goals of FLR through new decision support tools focused on implementation at the landscape scale.
The PARTNERS connection
This paper was strongly influenced by the intellectual connections forged during the first PARTNERS workshop. In 2015, PARTNERS emerged as a global network that was ready and willing to participate in non-academic international events focused on FLR issues. This paper highlights the value of an independent and interdisciplinary network that builds on the diversity of expertise, experiences, and perspectives of our members.