||It has been suggested that Forest landscape restoration be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since October 2013.|
Forest restoration is defined as “actions to re-instate ecological processes, which accelerate recovery of forest structure, ecological functioning and biodiversity levels towards those typical of climax forest” i.e. the end-stage of natural forest succession. Climax forests are relatively stable ecosystems that have developed the maximum biomass, structural complexity and species diversity that are possible within the limits imposed by climate and soil and without continued disturbance from humans (more explanation here). Climax forest is therefore the target ecosystem, which defines the ultimate aim of forest restoration. Since climate is a major factor that determines climax forest composition, global climate change may result in changing restoration aims.
Forest restoration may include simply protecting remnant vegetation (fire prevention, cattle exclusion etc.) or more active interventions to accelerate natural regeneration, as well as tree planting and/or sowing seeds (direct seeding) of species characteristic of the target ecosystem. Tree species planted (or encouraged to establish) are those that are typical of, or provide a critical ecological function in, the target ecosystem. However, wherever people live in or near restoration sites, restoration projects often include economic species amongst the planted trees, to yield subsistence or cash-generating products.
Forest restoration is an inclusive process, which depends on collaboration among a wide range of stakeholders including local communities, government officials, non-government organizations, scientists and funding agencies. Its ecological success is measured in terms of increased biological diversity, biomass, primary productivity, soil organic matter and water-holding capacity, as well as the return of rare and keystone species, characteristic of the target ecosystem. Economic indices of success include the value of forest products and ecological services generated (e.g. watershed protection, carbon storage etc.), which ultimately contribute towards poverty reduction. Payments for such ecological services (PES) and forest products can provide strong incentives for local people to implement restoration projects.
Opportunities for forest restoration
Forest restoration is appropriate wherever biodiversity recovery is one of the main goals of reforestation, such as for wildlife conservation, environmental protection, eco-tourism or to supply a wide variety of forest products to local communities. Forests can be restored in a wide range of circumstances, but degraded sites within protected areas are a high priority, especially where some climax forest remains as a seed source within the landscape. Even in protected areas, there are often large deforested sites: logged over areas or sites formerly cleared for agriculture. If protected areas are to act as Earth’s last wildlife refuges, restoration of such areas will be needed.
Many restoration projects are now being implemented under the umbrella of “forest landscape restoration” (FLR), defined as a “planned process to regain ecological integrity and enhance human well-being in deforested or degraded landscapes”. FLR recognizes that forest restoration has social and economic functions. It aims to achieve the best possible compromise between meeting both conservation goals and the needs of rural communities. As human pressure on landscapes increases, forest restoration will most commonly be practiced within a mosaic of other forms of forest management, to meet the economic needs of local people.
Tree planting is not always essential to restore forest ecosystems. A lot can be achieved by studying how forests regenerate naturally, identifying the factors that limit regeneration and devising methods to overcome them. These can include weeding and adding fertilizer around natural tree seedlings, preventing fire, removing cattle and so on. This is "accelerated" or "assisted" natural regeneration. It is simple and cost-effective, but it can only operate on trees that are already present, mostly light-loving pioneer species. Such tree species are not usually those that comprise climax forests, but they can foster recolonization of the site by shade-tolerant climax forest tree species, via natural seed dispersal from remnant forest. Because this is a slow process, biodiversity recovery can usually be accelerated by planting some climax forest tree species, especially large-seeded, poorly dispersed species. It is not feasible to plant all the tree species that may have formerly grown in the original primary forest and it is usually unnecessary to do so, if the framework species method can be used.
Forest restoration projects
Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project
The Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project (AFR) is a decade long, science-based project launched in 2010 with the intent of reducing severe wildfire risk, but also protecting water quality, old-growth forest, wildlife, people, property, and the overall quality of life within the Ashland watershed. The primary stakeholders in this cooperative restoration effort are the U.S. Forest Service, the City of Ashland, Lomaktsi Restoration Project, and the Nature Conservancy. The project was launched with initial funding from the Economic Recovery stimulus, and has more recently received funding from the Forest Service Hazardous Fuels program and the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnerships program to back the project through 2016 .
Located in the dry forests of southern Oregon, the threat of wildfire is a reality for land managers and property owners alike. The boundaries of the city of Ashland intersect with the surrounding forest in what is referred to as the wildland-urban interface (WUI). Historically, the forests of this region experienced a relatively frequent fire return interval, which prevented build up of heavy fuel loads. A century of fire exclusion and suppression on federal lands in the Pacific Northwest has led to increased forest density and fuel loads, and thus a more persistent threat of devastating wildfire.
The AFR project has implemented restoration techniques and prescriptions that aim to replicate the process of ecological succession in dry, mixed-conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest. The approach involves a combination of fuels reduction, thinning small-diameter trees, and carrying out prescribed burns. Priority is given to maintaining ecological function and complexity by retaining the largest and oldest trees, preserving wildlife habitat and riparian areas, and protecting erodible soils and maintaining slope stability.
Since its inception in 2010, the AFR project has completed restoration work on 4,000 of the 7,600 acres slated for the project. The project has provided educational experience to over 2,000 students and has benefitted the local community by creating jobs and providing workforce training. Currently, helicopter logging operations are thinning 1,100 acres of the watershed while controlled burning operations take place as air quality conditions allow.
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- "City of Ashland, Oregon - Ashland Forest Resiliency Project - What is AFR?". www.ashland.or.us. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ecological restoration.|
- The Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration - More information on global initiatives to restore forest ecosystems
- Issuance Of Eco-Restoration License