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  • A joint stocktaking of CGIAR work on forest and landscape restoration by FTA, PIM and WLE

A joint stocktaking of CGIAR work on forest and landscape restoration by FTA, PIM and WLE

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Despite the high level of political engagement and the wide range of organizations involved in restoration projects from local to global levels, beyond some success stories, restoration is not happening at scale. Research is urgently needed to design, develop and upscale successful restoration approaches. As part of this effort, FTA, PIM and WLE publish a synthesis of a survey of CGIAR’s projects on restoration.

Forest and landscape restoration (FLR) have gained traction on the political agenda over the past decades with the multiplication of pledges and commitments on restoration such as  the Bonn Challenge (2011), the New York Declaration on Forests (2014) and other global or regional initiatives. On March 1st, 2019, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2021-2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (Resolution A/RES/73/284).

This UN Decade could offer unprecedented opportunities to address food security, job creation and climate change simultaneously. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) considers that restoring 350 million hectares (ha) of degraded land by 2030, as committed in the New York Declaration on Forests, could generate USD 9 trillion in various ecosystem services and remove about 13–26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

However, despite the high level of political engagement and the wide range of institutions (public, private or civil society; local to global) involved in restoration projects, and beyond some success stories, restoration is not happening at scale.

In 2018, starting with a joint workshop, three CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) – Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA); Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) and Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) – decided to strengthen their collaboration to address this issue by bringing together different research streams working on soil, water and forest restoration.

“There are huge opportunities in bringing the three CRPs together to work on land restoration. Each of these CRPs works on different aspects of land restoration. Pooling this evidence in a user-friendly and accessible manner holds great potential for scaling, and for delivering enhanced impact from our CGIAR research” said Vincent Gitz, Izabella Koziell and Frank Place, the three CRP directors.

The three CRPs agreed on a broad scope of restoration, focused on the restoration of “ecological functions”, with the following definitions:

Degradation: Loss of functionality of e.g. land or forests, usually from a specific human perspective, based on change in land cover with consequences for ecosystem services

Restoration: Efforts to halt ongoing and reverse past degradation, by aiming for increased functionality (not necessarily recovering past system states).

They also discussed theories of [induced] changes underlying landscape dynamics of degradation and restoration. The following questions helped structure the discussions:

  • Why? What are the final goals of restoration efforts, which sustainable development goals can they contribute to?
  • What? What are the drivers of degradation that need to be addressed? What are the ecological functions to be restored?
  • Who? Who cares? Who are the stakeholders responsible for or impacted by land degradation? How stakeholders are encouraged, empowered and organized to act for forest and landscape restoration?
  • How? How to design effective restoration interventions? What are the land use and land management options for change in different contexts, across countries and biomes?
  • Where and when? How to operationalize action recognizing the connectivity across different spatial and temporal scales in the restoration process, considering the landscape’s spatial configuration and temporal dynamics?

A joint stocktaking of CGIAR work on forest and landscape restoration
[Download the report in PDF]

As a first step of their collaboration, the 3 CRPs (FTA, PIM, WLE) conducted a broad survey of the CGIAR’s work on restoration, inviting contributions from other CRPs. The document published today is a synthesis of the survey results. The full database with full details on each initiative is available as an annex.

The survey reflects the implication of different CGIAR Centers (ICRAF, Bioversity, CIFOR, CIAT, IWMI, ILRI, ICRISAT, CIMMYT and IFPRI) in restoration projects across the tropics and sub-tropics, in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Some countries, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Peru, or Indonesia concentrate many projects and provide strong opportunities for further collaboration among the three CRPs.

The survey shows the wide range of restoration activities undertaken by CGIAR CRPs and Centers, with their partners, from knowledge generation, methods, planning, modelling, assessment and evaluation, monitoring and mapping, to action on the ground. CGIAR restoration work can be divided into three broad categories: (1) case studies and projects; (2) tools for development; (3) approaches and conceptual frameworks.

The first category gathers case studies and projects comprising an element of field research. It comprises experimental plots, trials, local capacity building and implementation, on-the-ground assessments and surveys at different scales. It distinguishes: (i) “restoration-focused projects” where forest and land degradation is the main entry point and restoration is the main objective; from, (ii) “restoration-related projects” that can contribute to forest and landscape restoration while following other objectives (such as sustainable intensification or climate-smart agriculture). Half of the “restoration-focused” projects aim at assessing restoration practices with the view to upscale successful restoration experiences, such as the Ngitili fodder management system which contributed to the restoration of up to 270,000 ha over about 25 years in Shinyanga region, Tanzania. The others focus on climate change and climate-smart restoration, or on desertification and sand fixation. Six projects in this category focus on genetic diversity and on the performance and organization of the seed supply system, identified in this survey as a critical factor of success for restoration interventions. “Restoration-related projects” focus on various topics closely linked to restoration, including: sustainable land and water management; climate-smart agriculture; land tenure security and land governance reform; participatory governance and planning and collective farming.

The second category regroups: (i) tools, methods and guidelines, directed at decision makers or restoration practitioners at different levels, to support decision making; as well as, (ii) maps and models, measuring at different scales the intensity of degradation (i.e. efforts needed for restoration) or modeling the impacts of different land-use changes or land management practices. Models and maps often serve as the first layer for decision-making supporting tools. This category includes for instance two entries on the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework (LDSF), developed by ICRAF and applied, since 2005, in over 250 landscapes (100 km2 sites) across more than 30 countries. Using indicators such as vegetation cover, structure and floristic compositions, tree and shrub biodiversity, historic land use, visible signs of land degradation, and physical and chemical characteristics of soil (including soil organic carbon content and infiltration capacity), the LDSF, applicable to any landscape, provides a field protocol for assessing soil and ecosystem health to help decision makers to prioritize, monitor and track restoration interventions.

The third category, covering more theoretical work, includes: (i) evaluations, conceptual or theoretical frameworks around restoration and related issues; and (ii) systematic literature and/or project reviews, as well as meta-analyses on different topics linked to restoration. For instance a global survey on seed sourcing practices for restoration, was realized between 2015 and 2017 by Bioversity International, reviewing 136 restoration projects across 57 countries, and suggesting a typology of tree seed sourcing practices and their impact on restoration outcomes (Jalonen et al., 2018).

The survey describes projects operating at the landscape level or across multiple scales. This shows the importance of the landscape level to effectively combine integrated perspectives that allow synergies among different ecosystem components and functions with a deep knowledge of, and a fine adaptation to, local conditions. While many projects focus on the technical performance of restoration projects, relatively few investigate the economics, cost and benefits, of restoration and few examine their underlying power structures and power dynamics/games. This relative paucity of costs and benefit data has been noted by other organizations, an aspect that led to the launch of the FAO-led TEER initiative, to which FTA and several CGIAR centers contribute.

All the answers taken together provide useful insights for future restoration activities. In particular, they identify five critical factors of success for restoration interventions:

  1. secure tenure and use rights;
  2. access to markets (for inputs and outputs) and services;
  3. access to information, knowledge and know-how associated with sustainable and locally adapted land use and land management practices;
  4. awareness of the status of local ecosystem services, often used as a baseline to assess the level of degradation; and
  5. (v) high potential for restoration to contribute to global ecosystem services and attract international donors.

This synthesis will inform future work of FTA, PIM and WLE. It can also be used to support the design of restoration activities, programs and projects. Finally, it also illustrates with concrete examples the powerful contribution of forest and landscape restoration to the achievement of many, if not all of the 17 sustainable development goals. In particular, forest and landscape restoration, through the recovery of a range of ecological functions, can contribute to:

  • enhance food security through the improvement of the ecosystem services sustaining agriculture at landscape scale
  • improve natural resource use efficiency, thus reducing the pressure on the remaining natural habitats and addressing water scarcity;
  • favour social justice by securing a more equitable access to natural resources (e.g. land, water and genetic resources), and a wider participation in decision-making processes, in particular for women and marginalized people; and,
  • strengthen ecosystem, landscape and livelihoods resilience to economic shocks and natural disasters in a context of climate change.

The COVID 19 crisis has shown the importance of healthy ecosystems for healthy and resilient economies and societies. We hope that this document will contribute to integrate restoration as part of the efforts to “build back better” after the crisis.

This article was produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Oil palm-community conflict mapping in Indonesia: A case for better community liaison in planning for development initiatives

Oil palm-community conflict mapping in Indonesia: A case for better community liaison in planning for development initiatives

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Authors: Abram, N.K.; Meijaard, E.; Wilson, K.A.; Davis, J.T.; Wells, J.A.; Ancrenaz, M.; Budiharta, S.;Durrant, A.; Fakhruzzi, A.; Runting, R.K.; Gaveau, D.L.A.; Mengersen, K.

Conflict between large-scale oil-palm producers and local communities is widespread in palm-oil producer nations. With a potential doubling of oil-palm cultivation in Indonesia in the next ten years it is likely that conflicts between the palm-oil industry and communities will increase. We develop and apply a novel method for understanding spatial patterns of oil-palm related conflicts. We use a unique set of conflict data derived through systematic searches of online data sources and local newspaper reports describing recent oil-palm land-use related conflicts for Indonesian Borneo, and combine these data with 43 spatial environmental and social variables using boosted regression tree modelling. Reports identified 187 villages had reported conflict with oil-palm companies. Spatial patterns varied with different types of conflict. Forest-dependent communities were more likely to strongly oppose oil-palm establishment because of their negative perception of oil-palm development on the environment and their own livelihoods. Conflicts regarding land boundary disputes, illegal operations by companies, perceived lack of consultation, compensation and broken promises by companies were more associated with communities that have lower reliance on forests for livelihoods, or are located in regions that have undergone or are undergoing forest transformation to oil-palm or industrial-tree-plantations. A better understanding of the characteristics of communities and areas where different types of conflicts have occurred is a fundamental step in generating hypotheses about why certain types of conflict occur in certain locations. Insights from such research can help inform land use policy, planning and management to achieve more sustainable and equitable development. Our results can also assist certification bodies (e.g. the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil-RSPO, and the Indonesian and Malaysian versions, ISPO and MSPO), non-government-organisations, government agencies and other stakeholders to more effectively target mediation efforts to reduce the potential for conflict arising in the future.

Publication Year: 2017

ISSN: 0143-6228

Source: Applied Geography 78: 33-44

DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2016.10.005

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  • A new method for tracking Ebola could help prevent outbreaks

A new method for tracking Ebola could help prevent outbreaks

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus particles (red) in extracellular space between infected African green monkey kidney cells. Photo: NIAID
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By Catriona Cuft-Cosworth, originally published at Forests News

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus particles (red) in extracellular space between infected African green monkey kidney cells. Photo: NIAID
Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus particles (red) in extracellular space between infected African green monkey kidney cells. Photo: NIAID

The ongoing Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has claimed more than 11,000 lives since March 2014. Yet we still know very little about the conditions in which the virus thrives and how it spreads to humans.

Some answers may be found in a groundbreaking new study that borrows techniques from biology and geography to map out hotspots where the virus may be lurking.

A research team led by scientists John Fa and Robert Nasi from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) together with Jesús Olivero and colleagues from the University of Málaga, including US virologist Jean Paul Gonzalez and Zoological Society of London wildlife epidemiologist Andrew Cunningham, took a biogeographical approach to mapping favorable conditions for the Ebola virus, both in terms of environment and the presence of animals as potential hosts.

The resulting map from the study suggests that favorable conditions for Ebola are more widespread than suspected, stretching across 17 countries throughout West and Central Africa, and as far as the East African Lakes Region.
Preconceptions that only bats are to blame for carrying the virus were disregarded, with analysis extended to 64 species including rodents, primates, hoofed animals, a civet and a shrew as potential reservoirs of Ebola virus. Photo: Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR
Preconceptions that only bats are to blame for carrying the virus were disregarded, with analysis extended to 64 species including rodents, primates, hoofed animals, a civet and a shrew as potential reservoirs of Ebola virus. Photo: Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR

It also finds a strong link between Ebola and tropical rainforests, and suggests a list of more than 60 wild animals that require further investigation as potential carriers of the disease.

The findings could help save lives. “This information is essential for the development of early warning systems aiming to optimize the efficacy of prevention measures,” said Olivero.


Olivero and his team are among the world’s leading researchers in the area of “biogeography”, or the science of mapping biological patterns across time and space.

Biogeographic mapping allows scientists to not only analyze the distribution of an organism, but also to predict where that organism may be found based on the existence of favorable environmental conditions.

As a virus, Ebola is in fact an organism. Recognizing this, Olivero and colleagues took biogeographic mapping techniques that are normally used for animals, and applied them to the case of a virus.

Geographical information system (GIS) software was used to map the distribution of favorable environments for Ebola to occur in, as well as the spread of mammals known to have died from, or been infected by, the virus.

“Our findings provide new information about how the Ebola virus is distributed in the wild, before it is transmitted from humans to humans,” said Olivero.

Preconceptions that only bats are to blame for carrying the virus were disregarded, with analysis extended to 64 species including rodents, primates, hoofed animals, a civet and a shrew as potential reservoirs ofEbola virus.

The resulting map found a wider than expected spread of Ebola both among mammal populations and across the African continent.

Click to read the study

So what do the findings mean for humans? This is where the work of CIFOR scientists John Fa and Robert Nasi comes in. Fa and Nasi are experts on bushmeat, or wild animals harvested for food and non-food purposes.

One of the major causes of transmission for Ebola is the hunting, butchering and consumption of wild animals. But putting a blanket ban on bushmeat is not a viable measure – and neither is hunting all species suspected as carriers.

“We don’t want people to be alarmed that there are so many different species, and start killing as many as possible,” said Fa.

“We have to have very clear and realistic ways of trying to stop the transmission from infected animals to people without necessarily stopping people from doing what they’ve done, which is essentially hunting for food.”

Fa said that working with at-risk hunters and communities will be critical for stopping the spillover of infection from animals to humans.

Further research into the communities of animals identified in the study, and how their habitats are affected by human activities such as deforestation and urbanization, is also needed.

In the meantime, it’s hoped that the new method of mapping will help identify hotspots for Ebola and prevent contagion.

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  • Mammalian biogeography and the Ebola virus in Africa

Mammalian biogeography and the Ebola virus in Africa

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Authors: Olivero, J.; Fa, J.E.; Real, R.; Farfán, M.A.; Márquez, A.L.; Vargas, J.M.; Paul Gonzales, J.; Cunningham, A.A.; Nasi, R.

  1. Ebola virus is responsible for the fatal Ebola virus disease (EVD).
  2. Identifying the distribution area of the Ebola virus is crucial for understanding the risk factors conditioning the emergence of new EVD cases. Existing distribution models have underrepresented the potential contribution that reservoir species and vulnerable species make in sustaining the presence of the virus.
  3. In this paper, we map favourable areas for Ebola virus in Africa according to environmental and zoogeographical descriptors, independent of human-to-human transmissions. We combine two different biogeographical approaches: analysis of mammalian distribution types (chorotypes), and distribution modelling of the Ebola virus.
  4. We first obtain a model defining the distribution of environmentally favourable areas for the presence of Ebola virus. Based on a review of mammal taxa affected by or suspected of exposure to the Ebola virus, we model favourable areas again, this time according to mammalian chorotypes. We then build a combined model in which both the environment and mammalian distributions explain the favourable areas for Ebola virus in the wild.
  5. We demonstrate that mammalian biogeography contributes to explaining the distribution of Ebola virus in Africa, although vegetation may also underscore clear limits to the presence of the virus. Our model suggests that the Ebola virus may be even more widespread than previously suspected, given that additional favourable areas are found throughout the coastal areas of West and Central Africa, stretching from Cameroon to Guinea, and extend further East into the East African Lakes region.
  6. Our findings show that the most favourable area for the Ebola virus is significantly associated with the presence of the virus in non-human mammals. Core areas are surrounded by regions of intermediate favourability, in which human infections of unknown source were found. The difference in association between humans and other mammals and the virus may offer further insights on how EVD can spread.

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