How to restore forests and improve biodiversity?

Forest & Biodiversity

Restoring forest ecosystems involves returning trees to earlier forest land and enhancing the situation of degraded forests and planting local tree species. It includes conserving wild plants and animals and protecting the soils and water sources that are part of the forest ecosystem. In forests, natural plants can be planted to restore the tree covering. In some cases, forest trees will regrow naturally. Forest restoration also means nurturing patches of forest and woodland in landscapes that include busy farms and villages. Every single forest worldwide is impacted by activities sourced at humans either directly by destruction or indirectly by the beginning of intrusive species or by the impacts of climate change. Forest restoration is the process of improving the health, efficiency, and range of life of a forest. That’s why it’s better to save already healthy forests and protect them from being destroyed.

Restoration of forest landscapes by tree planting, seed gathering and propagation, agroforestry, and many other approaches offers a possibility to regain some of the critical forest services lost due to extensive deforestation and degradation. It can also provide a path to spiritual healing and rebirth as we engage with nature to repair our relationship with forest ecosystems. Forest restoration and care may become a deep spiritual practice when founded on the concept that forests have intrinsic spiritual worth. There are several encouraging examples of religious communities taking the lead in forest restoration across the world.

According to FAO (2018), the continuous reduction of global forests by 3% between 1990 and 2015 has forced the need for enhanced forest conservation and restoration. Alternative suppositions contradict the pattern of embracing tree planting as an appropriate technique to combat global warming because of their potential to absorb carbon, therefore reducing climate change, because in many cases, planting without considering local conditions and ecology may have negative implications doing more harm to ecosystems than the intended advantages. Similarly, incorrect planting, such as planting in grasslands such as savannahs, can be devastating, resulting in the loss of local biodiversity and their survival.

According to 2020 research that estimated the carbon accumulation potential from worldwide natural forest renewal, organically regenerated forests had roughly 32% greater carbon storage. The results have led to a more positive conservation narrative, with a greater emphasis on forest restoration rather than tree planting. It is critical to apply novel forest restoration approaches during the UN-designated decade of Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030). Restoration is now generally acknowledged, and benefits such as cost-effectiveness and the capacity to maintain greater biodiversity make it a better intervention than tree planting. It is gradually gaining acceptance among citizens and governments.

Making the change from afforestation to forest restoration

India joined the Bonn Challenge in 2015, promising to recover 13 million hectares of damaged and eroded land by 2020, but then increased its restoration goal to 26 million hectares by 2030. In addition, India has restored 9.8 million hectares of land since 2011. According to a World Resource Institute (WRI) assessment, India has about 140 million hectares of scope for forest conservation and ecosystem regeneration, with the ability to store 3 to 4.3 billion tonnes of above-ground carbon by 2040. Given the numerous merits of the restoring strategy, such as increased biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human livelihood demands, substantial considerations for a shift from afforestation to ecological restoration are being considered.

So far, the Indian government’s focus has primarily been on different afforestation and reforestation programs such as Compensatory Afforestation and recently, the redesigned National Mission on Green India, as well as project-specific programs such as Project Tiger and Fire Management. It is in response to several state-sponsored initiatives such as Telangana’s ‘Telangana Ku Haritha Haram.’ Grazing is by far the major factor contributing to the continuous degradation of forests in India. It impacts more than 75% of the forest area, with shifting agriculture and encroaching affecting over 10 million acres. This reliance and intricacy of forest-related occupations has somehow hampered the development of many afforestation initiatives but also presents severe issues for the such potential development of forests, particularly their restoration. Forest and Landscape Restoration (FLR) is a process that brings everything together groups of people that fall within a specified territory to discover, discuss, and execute jointly approved actions for the improvement of the region. It is a modernized and enhanced form of forest restoration. The incorporation of the landscape notion is particularly important and necessary in developing nations such as India, where millions of people rely on forests for a living.

Challenges in forest restoration

Many problems must be thoroughly researched and studied to meet restoration goals. One of the primary obstacles in identifying and obtaining available land. According to a 2006 National Forest Commission assessment, 41 percent of India’s forests are already damaged. The country’s open woods with a density of 10% to 40% have grown from 2,49,930 square kilometers in 1991 to 3,07,120 square kilometers now (2021). There are no specific rules or scientifically defined norms for selecting restoration regions. The availability of open forests and other categories such as scrub forests is dependent on their appropriateness and other factors. The lack of scientific criteria for selecting degraded woods across multiple agro-climatic zones makes area designation difficult.

Second, India has ten primary types of forests that are managed using various management and silviculture approaches due to climate extremes. Almost 5.03 percent of its geographical areas are protected areas (PA) with a completely independent management structure. Until recently, the primary emphasis in Indian forestry was on producing trees for income or production forestry under various silvicultural systems, with a greater emphasis on tree planting as one of the restoration strategies.

The third issue is stakeholder conflict. Villagers, community leaders, government/non-government members, and persons with social or political interests are all involved in implementing restoration efforts.

An additional issue to consider in restoration operations is proper funding. In countries such as India, where there has been a high reliance on forests for a variety of purposes, a sufficient budget is required not just for stakeholder engagement and recovery operations, but as well as for the expenses of nixing livelihood activities such as grazing, untenable minor forest produces (MFP) selection, and so on.

Basic elements of forest restoration

These can be combined in various ways


  • Planting trees.

This is the most important part of forest restoration but doing such ways often runs dry. Many replanting options need to plant seedlings and grow their native trees.


  • Improving soils.

Soils required microorganisms and small bugs to flourish. By adding natural material to the soil, it will drastically change a forest and help refurbished forest health.


  • Managing land sustainably

Effective renovation must focus on the demands of farmers who worry about small plots of land and whose access to resources profoundly affects forests. Working with governments to promote practices like agroforestry—a farming technique that incorporates the cultivation and conservation of trees among crops or pastureland for more productive and sustainable land use—provides huge benefits to forest restoration efforts.

Here are the ways of protecting forests


  1. Protect existing forests first

Annually, huge areas of forest are lost, resulting in massive carbon dioxide emissions that are not readily compensated by regeneration. These woods may require almost 100 years to rebuild, so we must conserve what we presently have before planting more. To maintain existing forests, governments and companies should establish and enforce more protected areas, as well as pass legislation prohibiting deforestation. At the same time, local efforts might focus on addressing the causes of deforestation, such as wildfires and cattle overgrazing.


  1. Work with local people

The importance of putting local populations at the center of reforestation programs cannot be overstated. One of the most prevalent causes of a failed reforestation project is failing to incorporate them. Working in a small population not just to ensures a project’s long-term viability, but also helps the community by giving jobs in site preparation, planting trees, and forest management, as well as possibilities, to build sustainable forest-based businesses.


  1. Maximize biodiversity recovery to meet multiple goals

A forestry effort should strive to accomplish several objectives. Reduced carbon emissions, species conservation, economic advantages to local communities, and ecosystem services such as dependable water systems are just a few examples. It will be simpler to fulfill these aims if biodiversity is restored. Long-term native forest restoration and re-establishing what was there before is significantly more beneficial to biodiversity recovery than just planting fast-growing, produced trees.


  1. Select the right area for reforestation

Planting trees on formerly wooded terrain is the greatest option. Non-forested regions, such as grasses and marshes, also contribute to carbon sequestration, primarily in the soil, and must be prevented. Keep in mind that choosing a region that is currently used for agriculture may result in more deforestation elsewhere. Linking or extending dense forest areas to an existing forest will aid the natural regeneration of the new forest and increase the extent of the current forest, benefiting biodiversity.


  1. Use natural forest restoration wherever possible

Natural regeneration, or the restoration of a forest after it has been abandoned or deteriorated, can be less expensive and more successful than tree planting. Carbon uptake in naturally regenerated regions can be 40 times more than in plantations. This natural method works well on lightly degraded areas or those that are adjacent to existing woods that can provide seeds.


  1. Select tree species that maximize biodiversity

Picking the proper tree is critical when vegetation cover is not feasible and tree planting is required to restore forests. Planting should include a variety of species, as many indigenous as feasible, and also nearly extinct species where possible. A mixed-species forest will be more robust to disease, fire, and weather extremes, as well as maintaining biodiversity, produce wildlife habitats, and attract seed dispersers, and pollinators.

Ways to Help Biodiversity

Biodiversity refers to the diversity of all living organisms, including ecosystems, plants, animals, their habitats, and DNA. Biodiversity is important because it provides essential ecosystem services such as oxygen, food, clean water, rich soil, medicines, shelter, protection from storms and floods, a stable climate, and recreation. Unfortunately, human civilization is causing biodiversity to perish at 1,000 times the typical pace. Habitat loss and degradation, invading species, the spread of pollution and disease, climate change, and resource overexploitation are all obliterating individual species. And, with the human population set to treble from 1970 to 9 billion by 2050, the biodiversity catastrophe will only worsen as more people demand more resources.

To address the biodiversity catastrophe, collaboration at all levels of society will be required, from intergovernmental agreements to local community action. Individuals may contribute to the establishment of organizations and the election of leaders who can aid in the conservation of wildlife. People may understand further about local ecology, appreciate them, and cherish them by interacting with the environment and inspiring everyone to do the same. Consumers may make a difference in the world through what they purchase or use in their daily lives. Cotton, for example, has a disproportionately negative impact on biodiversity. In many regions of the world, there is also an overabundance of high-environmental-footprint meat, particularly beef. Those with savings and pensions have the option of investing in ways that enhance biodiversity rather than destroy it.

People spending time with the environment can help improve human connection with ecosystems around us more valuable. Educating youngsters about animals and local ecosystems can assist to strengthen our relationship with nature and affect long-term behavior changes over time.

Here are some ways by which we can conserve the biodiversity around us:


  • Limit the Use of Pesticides

A culture has been developed where we use pesticides to sort out our natural world. The need to use pesticides in our gardens, local communities, or along roadsides is being impacted or measures are needed to control invasive species. By adopting nature in its slightly untidy beauty we would both save money and pass on a richer and more diverse landscape for future generations.


  • Create a Wetland

Wetlands are of enormous importance for biodiversity, many species depend on wetlands for part or all of their life cycle. Dead plants break down in the water and provide an enriched food source for small aquatic insects and other wetland species. They in turn are preceded by fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals, and thus are a crucial element of the food chain in any ecosystem. A newly created pond or other wetland will be occupied immediately by aquatic insects, and over time this will evolve to serve as a local reservoir of natural diversity.


  • Leave Grassland Unfertilised

Grasses are forceful and will outcompete weeds in fertile soil. For people where small areas of land can be taken out of production, they should be left unfertilized to increase the growth of wildflowers. Wildflowers provide food for our pollinators and other insects, including those that keep crop pests under control. Birds and mammals will feed both on the fruits and seeds of the wildflowers as well as on the insects they support.


  • Plant Native Trees and Shrubs

Planting native trees and shrubs is an excellent way to support biodiversity. Flowering trees are crucial for pollinators in the springtime because many of them blossom early when little else is in flower to provide food.


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