Undertaking large‐scale forest restoration to generate ecosystem services
The global community is seeking to substantially restore the world's forest cover to improve the supply of ecosystem services. However, it is not clear what type of reforestation must be used and there is a risk that the techniques used in industrial timber plantations will become the default methodology. This is unlikely to be sufficient because of the well‐known relationship between biodiversity and ecological functioning. Restoration may be achieved through natural regeneration but this may not always occur at critical locations. Ecological restoration involving species‐rich plantings might also be used but can be difficult to implement at landscape scales. I review here the consequence of planting more limited numbers of species and the effects of this on the delivery of ecosystem services. Evidence suggests many commonly sought ecosystem services—though not all—may be generated by the modest levels of species richness provided these species have appropriate traits. The literature also shows that the alpha diversity of restored forests is not the only driver of functionality and that the location and extent of any reforestation are significant as well; beta and gamma diversity may also affect functionality but these relationships remain unclear. Encouraging the adoption of even moderately diverse plantings at landscape scales and at key locations will require policies and institutions to balance the type, location, and scale of restoration and make the necessary trade‐offs between national and local aspirations. New approaches and metrics will have to be developed to monitor and assess restoration success at these larger scales.
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