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A practice-led assessment of landscape restoration potential in a biodiversity hotspot

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Marion PfeiferORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Effective restoration planning tools are needed to mitigate global carbon and biodiversity crises. Published spatial assessments of restoration potential are often at large scales or coarse resolutions inappropriate for local action. Using a Tanzanian case study, we introduce a systematic approach to inform landscape restoration planning, estimating spatial variation in cost-effectiveness, based on restoration method, logistics, biomass modelling and uncertainty mapping. We found potential for biomass recovery across 77.7% of a 53 000 km2 region, but with some natural spatial discontinuity in moist forest biomass, that was previously assigned to human causes. Most areas with biomass deficit (80.5%) were restorable through passive or assisted natural regeneration. However, cumulative biomass gains from planting outweighed initially high implementation costs meaning that, where applicable, this method yielded greater long-term returns on investment. Accounting for ecological, funding and other uncertainty, the top 25% consistently cost-effective sites were within protected areas and/or moderately degraded moist forest and savanna. Agro-ecological mosaics had high biomass deficit but little cost-effective restoration potential. Socio-economic research will be needed to inform action towards environmental and human development goals in these areas. Our results highlight value in long-term landscape restoration investments and separate treatment of savannas and forests. Furthermore, they contradict previously asserted low restoration potential in East Africa, emphasizing the importance of our regional approach for identifying restoration opportunities across the tropics. This article is part of the theme issue 'Understanding forest landscape restoration: reinforcing scientific foundations for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration'.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wills AR, Shirima DD, Villemaire-Cote O, Platts PJ, Knight SJ, Loveridge R, Seki H, Waite CE, Munishi PKT, Lyatuu H, Bernal B, Pfeifer M, Marshall AR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences

Year: 2023

Volume: 378

Issue: 1867

Print publication date: 02/01/2023

Online publication date: 14/11/2022

Acceptance date: 16/09/2022

Date deposited: 28/11/2022

ISSN (print): 0962-8436

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2970

Publisher: Royal Society Publishing


DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2021.0070

PubMed id: 36374130


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Funder referenceFunder name
FT170100279Australian Research Council
Flamingo Land Ltd
IUCN Sustain
United Bank of Carbon
Rainforest Trust