Natural Regeneration

Natural Regeneration of Forest can Promote Conservation Practices and Provide Economic Benefits for Smallholders

Chazdon, R. L., and M. Uriarte. 2016. Natural regeneration in the context of large-scale forest and landscape restoration in the tropics. Biotropica 48:709-715 .


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Tree planting remains the major focus of restoration programs in tropical regions, while natural regeneration is often ignored as a viable land-use option. There is an emerging gap between ecological theory and restoration practice as knowledge is rapidly growing about the extent and feasibility of natural regeneration and the environmental and economic benefits of naturally regenerating forests. We wanted to create greater understanding of the potential for using natural regeneration to leverage large-scale forest and landscape restoration in the tropics. To do this requires bringing together scientists, policy makers, and practitioners to share information and discuss ideas.

This plan moved into action when Maria Uriarte and I travelled together on a red-eye from JFK airport to Rio de Janeiro to participate in an international workshop held at the Botanical Garden in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 19–21 November, 2014. The workshop was organized by the International Institute for Sustainability (IIS), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Resources Institute (WRI), and PARTNERS. Following the workshop, Maria and I agreed to organize a Special Issue of Biotropica to publish papers presented at the workshop with other papers solicited from authors who work on natural regeneration in different parts of the world’s tropics.

Robin Chazdon at an international workshop held at the Botanical Garden in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, November, 2014.

The Special Issue provided foundational literature to synthesize ecological and social research and case studies on the role that natural regeneration can and should play in large-scale restoration initiatives in the tropics. In this introductory paper, we distinguish forest and landscape restoration from the practice of ecological restoration, and describe how a range of restoration approaches—including natural regeneration—can compose FLR. We emphasized that in moving forward with the global restoration agenda, it is important to promote conservation practices and sustainable agricultural land uses that provide economic benefits for smallholders, while at the same time fostering the potential for natural regeneration of forests within production landscapes. Undertaking this important balancing act still remains a major challenge and will require technical support and capacity development along with financial support and development of new and diversified markets and sustainable supply chains.


The PARTNERS connection
PARTNERS actively participated in planning the workshop in Rio and organizing the scientific talks, which were later published in the Special Issue. These activities set the stage for many interactions and partnerships with IIS, WRI, FAO, CIFOR, and IUCN over the next four years that continue to deepen and broaden.