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Large-scale ecosystem restoration potential is immense: political support has grown through global and regional initiatives and 62 countries have pledged to restore lands under the Bonn Challenge, and counting. While pledges can be made easily, delivering high quality ecosystem restoration is difficult. Likewise, the drive to restore forests has also captured the public’s imagination, but perceptions of what is possible can exceed the ability of programmes to deliver on the ground. Barriers include: lasting political will; competition with other land uses; adequate and long-term finance; and the need for effective national and local institutions (from national strategies to local extension services). Reviews of case studies highlight potential responses to these barriers including: adapting strategies to local political motivating factors; moving from project by project implementation to coherent cross-sector national policies; devolved responsibility to local authorities; effective incentive mechanisms and; granting tenure security to rights holders and land users. Even where only some or none of these factors exist, planned and unplanned natural regeneration of forests is also occurring at scale, particularly where agriculture has retreated and/or protection measures are in place, offering another self-selecting route to large scale delivery. The international community, including through the narratives and discussions under the UN decade on ecosystem restoration, can play a role in balancing the clear opportunity presented by the corporate, government and public interest in forest restoration, with the need for patience to deliver results that last.
Conference Presentation, SER2021
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