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15 ways to reforest the planet: UniSC research

14 Nov 2022

International scientists are calling for a ‘decade of global action’ to reforest the planet, following the overnight publication of a themed international journal led by researchers from Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast.

The landmark issue of the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions reveals the latest scientific advances in forest restoration with the aim of benefiting people as well as nature.

“This paves the way for evidence-based, on-the-ground action plans for the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration,” said Professor Andy Marshall of UniSC’s Forest Research Institute.

Professor Marshall said it was exciting to see the strong focus on forests at this week’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) underway in Egypt, with Australia joining world leaders in committing to halting forest loss and land degradation by 2030.

He said the recommendations in the new journal issue combined research findings with knowledge and experience from many countries.

“Our goals are ambitious and intend to deliver long-term success by learning from the past – from choosing the right location and restoration method through to mitigating socioeconomic pressures, weather extremes and people-wildlife interactions,” he said.

“Almost 200 authors from 27 countries and the United Nations’ taskforce are working to ensure these findings really make a difference to forest restoration and inspire action around the world, particularly in the developing tropics where much of this research has been undertaken.”

Professor Marshall’s principal paper lists 15 essential advances for science to help restore the world’s forested landscapes.

“Forests are crucial for the health and economies of our planet, but they must be better planned, managed and monitored to ensure sustainable benefits for people as well as nature,” he said.

He said careful planning of future forest projects could boost the biodiversity of species, carbon sinks, economic development and people’s livelihoods.

“The evidence gives scientific backing to campaigns by environmental groups using the banner, Plantations Are Not Forests – acknowledging that tree-planting is not always the correct approach to restoration, and that restoration needs to consider underlying ecology, local people, and the ultimate reasons for planting the trees.”

UniSC is involved in seven of the collaborative articles, leading five of them:

  • Fifteen essential science advances for effective restoration of the world’s forest landscapes, by Professor Andrew Marshall and colleagues;
  • Monitoring the recovery of tree diversity during tropical forest restoration in Costa Rica – lessons from long term trajectories of natural regeneration, by Professor Robin Chazdon and colleagues;
  • Applying a Community Capacity Curve framework to reforestation to support success in the Philippines, by Professor John Herbohn and colleagues;
  • A practice-led assessment of landscape restoration potential in a biodiversity hotspot in Tanzania, by Professor Marshall with Abigail Wills of the University of York and colleagues;
  • How certified community forests in Tanzania impact forest restoration and human wellbeing, by Dr Robin Loveridge of the University of York with project leader Professor Marshall and colleagues.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Ross Young said UniSC’s contribution to the journal was an honour and showcased the global relevance and expertise of its researchers.

“The University of the Sunshine Coast was ranked the top Queensland university in the 2022 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which are the only global performance tables that assess universities against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

“This success reflects UniSC’s longstanding commitment to research in sustainability and climate action.”

 Selected other papers in the journal:

  • Implications of tropical cyclones on damage and potential recovery and restoration of logged forests in Vietnam;
  • How animal seed dispersal recovers within 40 years after passive restoration in a forested landscape;
  • How restoration success in former Amazonian mines is driven by soil amendment and forest proximity;
  • Evaluating tree restoration interventions for wellbeing and ecological outcomes in rural tropical landscapes, aiming to prevent conflicts such as big animals roaming into crops and farms;
  • The impacts of wildfires on restoration, particularly in tall, wet eucalypt forests.

Professor Marshall is also principal investigator of FoRCE (Forest Restoration and Climate Experiment) and founding director of Reforest Africa. Link to his background story here.

A family plants trees for forest restoration in Thailand. Photo supplied via Professor Andy Marshall

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