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Restoring forest for regeneration and ecosystem function

Forests around the world provide a variety of environmental services. International conventions and national policies for biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation clearly state how important it is to improve forest protection, forest restoration and adaptation of forest management to climate change.

However, forest cover around the world is decreasing. Based on the final report of the Forest Resources Assessment 2020, the world has a total forest areas of 4.06 billion hectares, which is 31 percent of the total land area. This area is equivalent to 0.52 ha per person. The area of tropical forests is the largest among the world's forests, covering 45 percent. Against this background, forest restoration activities are increasing worldwide, and the regeneration of trees is a key component of this project. More degraded areas are prioritized in forest restoration work.

Several global, regional and national organizations have set targets in the last ten years for large-scale forest landscape restoration. In Malaysia, the 100 million trees campaign was introduced and to date more than 39 million trees have been planted throughout Malaysia consisting of 1,275 tree species. Additionally, the UN REDD+ program encourages the restoration of these forests to be carried out by creating a market value for the carbon stored therein.

The success of this large-scale forest restoration faces several challenges. The main one is related to cost achieving restoration which are very high. According to FAO, a conservative estimate of 2000 USD per hectare means that at least 700 billion USD is needed for the restoration of an area of 350 million hectares by 2030. With such a cost, it is certainly a big challenge in implementing forest restoration around the world. Restoration costs vary depending on the restoration method, from lower-cost alternatives that use natural regeneration with native tree species to higher-cost for active restoration that requires site preparation and planting. Until now, there is a debate regarding the advantages, disadvantages and degree of success with these approaches but no one-size-fits all solution regarding methods of restoration exists. Costs for forest restoration increase according to the degree of degradation of an ecosystem. Thus, if the seed source is sufficient or available, natural regeneration with native species may represent a cost-effective option that may be applied across large areas. Whereas if the supply of seedlings is insufficient or non-existent or the area to be restored is too harsh, active restoration planting is an option that can be taken.

Second, the main obstacle to the complete success of restoration is related to the lack of material regeneration. Restoration projects involve the re-establishment of native tree species, but there is often a lack of knowledge on how, where and when to obtain genetic material with desired properties for the sites under restoration. And also related to how the collection, storage and pre-treatment of seeds should be taken as a preliminary action. It also needs to be seen, little knowledge also on the cost-efficient cultivation of the seedlings in the nurseries. In addition, efficient regeneration systems currently exist for only a few species, mostly for use in industrial farms and these techniques are not always suitable for restoration programs. It also to be seen, climate change raises questions about where the different tree species may thrive in the future. Much knowledge in this field is still missing.

The third challenge for the full success of cost-effective restoration in the long term is that the forest that has been restored should be a positive resource for local and regional communities. Thus, the success of forest restoration depends more on people and their ability to use the forest that has been restored in different ways.

Tarikh Input: 31/10/2022 | Kemaskini: 31/10/2022 | masridien

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