Storing carbon and promoting biological diversity through landscape restoration

In recent years, the rate at which rainforests are being lost has reached alarming proportions in many countries, including Ghana and Mexico. While approximately 75,000 hectares of rainforest are being destroyed each year in Ghana, this figure is twice as high for Mexico. A diverse range of factors are driving this process, with one of the most prevalent being illegal logging and slash-and-burn practices aimed at creating land for agricultural use. Although this allows for short-term profits derived from wood or agricultural products, the ecosystems often suffer long-term damage, including to their biological diversity and ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and regulation of the water cycle. The governments of Mexico and Ghana have therefore initiated efforts to restore destroyed forest areas to as natural a state as possible.

Assessing possibilities for landscape restoration

An International Climate Initiative (IKI) project being implemented by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is analysing the opportunities for landscape restoration and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the forest sectors of Ghana and Mexico. It is also working to develop corresponding instruments and methodologies for this purpose. Based on this analysis, areas that are suitable for restoration efforts will be identified and designated on maps. Within this context, the project is assessing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be sequestered, and the project will also apply new indicators of biodiversity, which are currently undergoing field-testing. A newly created online training module is providing additional support towards the selection of landscape restoration areas. The project is drawing together experiences from other countries related to this topic through cooperation with another IKI project being implemented by the World Resources Institute in Brazil. Building on this information, IUCN is preparing a preliminary study of how investment packages for landscape restoration in Rwanda could be designed.

In addition, the project is supporting the participative development of national strategies for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). Accordingly, working groups comprising a range of different stakeholders were established in both countries in order to define national criteria for implementing restoration activities within the context of REDD+. The project is conducting workshops with national stakeholders and international experts on topics such as the development of national guidelines for forest and landscape restoration in Mexico. The project is also developing user-friendly online learning modules tailored to a broad target group.

Restoring forests and scrublands in Ghana and Mexico

According to a cost-benefit analysis conducted in Mexico, landscape restoration is worth the effort - the benefits for the ecosystems and people outweigh the costs. The Mexican government has therefore already approved EUR 400 million for forest restoration activities, and Mexican project partners are actively contributing to the costs for fostering dialogue among different interest groups. Initial outcomes of advisory processes have begun feeding into the political decision-making process in Ghana. Building on close cooperation with government representatives, the project outcomes are already being used to formulate national REDD+ regulations and are feeding into the development of Ghana’s Forest Investment Programme (FIP) from the World Bank.

The process for restoring damaged forests and landscapes varies from region to region, and is oriented towards the needs of the local population. In Ghana, for example, small plantations are being established on brownfield sites, making use of tree species that not only provide local people with a source of wood but also other important products. In addition, degraded scrublands are being enriched through the planting of native tree species, which provide both ecosystem functions like erosion protection and serve as crop plants for the people.