Restoration of Degraded Tropical Forest Landscapes

Restoration of Degraded Tropical Forest Landscapes


Deforestation and the declining extent of tropical forests has negatively impacted ecosystem functions, services, and goods and has disproportionately harmed the rural poor of tropical countries. In the wake of deforestation, agricultural development and traditional methods of reforestation (plantations) have largely failed to provide sustainable livelihoods. This review article assesses the strengths and weaknesses of different tropical restoration methods to combat forest degredation and address rural poverty.

Conclusions & takeaways

Accelerating natural recovery of existing disturbed areas, while dependent on factors including extent of degradation and degree of fragmentation, shows promise in restoring the functional aspects of species-rich tropical forests. In forests that have crossed an ecological threshold, natural recovery is not inevitable, and should not be managed as such. Plantings and plantations, the article states, must be managed according to specific goals (restoration of biodiversity or production of goods and ecosystem services) or risk failure. In restorative plantings, strategies include mimicry of early successional stages in an attempt to develop a mature canopy or replanting of a much greater range of species to bypass natural successional stages.  Potential opportunities and methods of making effective reforestation attractive to rural communities are also discussed, including the reduction of financial and institutional hurdles, the proliferation of information and technical assistance, the development of multilevel agroforestry systems, and the introduction of payments for ecosystem services provided. An outlook on future trends and practices in tropical forest rehabilitation is also offered.


Lamb D. Restoration of Degraded Tropical Forest Landscapes. Science. 2005;310:1628–1632. doi:10.1126/science.1111773.


  • Rainforest Cooperative Research Center and School of Integrative Biology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  • Research and Development, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Arlington, VA, USA