Holistic Vision

Interactions Among Scientists, Policy-makers, and Practitioners are Urgently Needed to Align Efforts to Restore Ecological Functions and Integrity to Forest Landscapes

Chazdon, Robin L. 2018 Advances and challenges for achieving large-scale forest restoration in the tropics. Current Conservation 12.1:3-7



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This article (and the entire issue of Current Conservation) owes its existence to two events in July and August 2017. The first event was meeting Kartik Shanker at the International Conference on Conservation Biology in Cartagena, Colombia.  Kartik is the editor of this beautiful magazine, and we started discussion of an issue focused on forest restoration.  I agreed to act as guest editor for the issue. The second event was five weeks later, when I presented a plenary talk on advances and challenges for achieving large-scale restoration at the International Conference of the Society for Ecological Restoration in Iguazu Falls, Brazil. This seemed like a great topic for an article in the issue, so I wrote this paper following the themes of my talk, but written for the general public.

This short article provides an overview of advances and challenges in large-scale forest restoration in the tropics, focusing on advances and challenges in three major arenas of activity: theory, policy, and practice. Despite much progress within each of these sectors, they remain largely disconnected. Far more outreach and interaction across scientists, policy makers, and practitioners is needed to achieve effective, long-lasting, and large-scale forest restoration in tropical regions.

Several ways to forge more interactions are suggested. To encourage links between research and practice, local stakeholders could be involved from in several aspects of restoration research including study design, data collection, preliminary interpretation of results, and recommendations for future research. Although scientists and policy-makers differ in perspectives, objectives, approaches and vocabulary ,  establishing coalitions  between policy-makers, scientists, and business sectors can be a starting point for bridging these gaps and creating new approaches to restoration policy that incorporate relevant scientific findings.

Linking policy and practice is essential for large-scale forest restoration in the tropics. High-level government support is needed for fulfilling many objectives of restoration, but the most important level of activity happens within landscapes where practitioners work alongside local stakeholders. Many opportunities for aligning national-scale targets with practice on the ground are not being explored to the full extent possible due to inadequate governance structures and lack of attention to land and use rights. Quality standards and guidelines for good practices are lacking for the broad social and environmental goals of forest and landscape restoration. There is an urgent need to create the time and space for effective interactions, and to form local and national institutions that work effectively toward restoring ecological functions and integrity to forest landscapes.


The PARTNERS Connection
This article is part of a special issue of Current Conservation magazine. Current Conservation is published by an informal alliance of organizations to promote interdisciplinary research in conservation and to foster communication among scientists, students, resource managers, educators and policy makers. The six articles in this issue were written by PARTNERS members and focus on different aspects of forest restoration in the tropics. Each article is illustrated with unique artwork, infographics and photographic images from contributors across the world.