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Restoring Tropical Forests, A Practical Guide

A project to write, publish and distribute a global generic guide to facilitate tropical forest restoration for biodiversity recovery.

The guide explains how to carry out field trials to test various silvicultural treatments including fertilizer application, weeding and mulching. Cardboard mulch mats can be particularly effective in dry, degraded sites. (Photo: Steve Elliott).

In recent years, there has been a surge in interest in the restoration of tropical forest ecosystems both for biodiversity recovery and for carbon storage. Whilst the policy and socio-economic issues of forest restoration are being widely addressed, there remains a lack of information and guidance on the scientific and technical aspects.

Kew recognizes that forest restoration practices should be based on the best science available. Work already carried out at Chiang Mai University’s Forest Restoration Research Unit (FORRU) has generated scientifically proven techniques – based on the Framework Species Method – to restore seasonal tropical forest and tropical rainforest in Thailand (presented in the Darwin Initiative-funded manual “How to Plant a Forest”). Drawing on this experience, effective research protocols have been drawn up, to help develop effective restoration techniques in other tropical forest ecosystems (published in the Darwin-funded manual “Research for Restoring Tropical Forests”).

Demand for the previously produced Darwin manuals has been very high. Both books have been translated into Thai, Khmer, Laotian and Chinese, while “How to Plant a Forest” has also been published in Vietnamese and Indonesian, with a further request received to use the book in Africa (for the “Plant a Billion Trees Project” of Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai). However, both “How to Plant a Forest” and “Research for Restoring Tropical Forest Ecosystems” were written specifically for ecological and socio-economic conditions of Indochina. In this current Darwin-funded Main project, the material from the previous two books is adapted, revised and reworked into a third Darwin volume, augmented with case studies from around the world to produce a user-friendly, and globally relevant practical guide. This global manual will serve as a generic guide to restoring forests throughout the tropics, based on the concepts and innovative techniques developed by FORRU and adapted according to the lessons learned from the two previous Darwin projects. The book will support projects ranging from biodiversity recovery and watershed rehabilitation to carbon offset and environmental education. We believe that such a book could result in substantial improvements in existing forest restoration projects and provide a key resource to enable new ones.

The guide will present three aspects of the restoration of tropical forest ecosystems for biodiversity recovery and environmental protection:-

• general concepts of tropical forest dynamics and regeneration that are relevant to the practice of effective tropical forest restoration;
• proven restoration techniques (e.g. Framework Species Method) and case studies of their successful application in Asia and Australia and their potential application in projects chosen from Africa and the Americas.
• research methods to refine such techniques and adapt them to local ecological and socio-economic conditions.

It is hoped that the guide will make a major contribution to the efforts of many countries to restore their native forests, and hence improve their ability to meet their obligations under the CBD.

Project support to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD):
Article 8, In-situ Conservation: the project will help to develop the capacity of land managers in tropical countries to restore degraded ecosystems and recover threatened species.
Article 10, Sustainable Use of Components of Biological Diversity: the project will provide information to support local populations to implement remedial actions to restore biological diversity.
Article 12, Research and Training: the project promotes research contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, particularly in developing countries (in accordance with SBSTTA recommendations).
Article 16, Technology transfer: the project promotes the transfer of forest restoration methodologies.
Article 17, Information exchange: the project promotes the generation and exchange of information on growing and planting native species for use in forest restoration, 


Project partners and collaborators


Wildlife Landscapes


Forest Restoration Research Unit, Chiang Mai University

Project funders


Darwin Initiative


John Ellerman Foundation

Project team

Project Leader

Kate Hardwick

Project Leader: