Natural Regeneration

Steps Towards Implementing Natural Regeneration as a Large-scale Restoration Approach

Chazdon, R. L., and M. R. Guariguata. 2016. Natural regeneration as a tool for large-scale forest restoration in the tropics: prospects and challenges Biotropica 48:716-730.


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In November 2014, 80 researchers and restoration practitioners from Brazil and other countries came together at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden to discuss how natural regeneration could be used as a foundation for large-scale forest and landscape restoration. This symposium provided the stimulation for the Special Issue of Biotropica on this topic, where this paper was published. The event also produced the Rio Call to Promote Natural Regeneration in Forest and Landscape Restoration and galvanized interest in natural regeneration within the global restoration community. I invited Manuel Guariguata to co-author this paper, which gave us an opportunity to collaborate again, 17 years after we had first worked together to study secondary forest regeneration in NE Costa Rica.

Natural regeneration at Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu in Rio de Janeiro State. (Photo: Robin Chazdon)

Our main message is that many areas of the tropics that have been deforested and converted to other land uses have a high potential to recover forests on their own via natural regeneration. Since natural regeneration requires substantially lower costs compared to full tree planting, much larger areas could potentially be restored, permitting limited funds to be used more effectively in areas where tree planting is needed. Under suitable conditions, naturally regenerating forests and natural regeneration in restoration plantings promote local genetic adaptation, foster native species with known traditional uses, create a wide range of different habitats for wildlife, and sustain local biodiversity and biotic interactions.

We highlighted several steps towards implementing natural regeneration as a restoration approach: 1) identifying and modeling the environmental and social conditions where natural regeneration is a viable and favorable land-use option; 2) developing monitoring protocols that can be carried out by local communities; and 3) developing economic incentives, governance structures, and good practice norms as well as regulations  that promote local stewardship of naturally regenerating forests. Research and implementation strategies to enable large-scale natural regeneration are gaining ground across the world.


The PARTNERS connection
The Rio Symposium and the Biotropica Special Issue, edited by Robin Chazdon and María Uriarte, were key events for PARTNERS and helped to generate worldwide interest in natural regeneration among the research community as well as among the practitioners and policy makers who focus on Forest and Landscape Restoration globally. The work provided a scientific foundation for a policy brief on Natural Regeneration published in 2017 by the Forest Ecosystem Restoration Initiative of the Convention on Biological Diversity with participation of the Society for Ecological Restoration.