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Global forest restoration and the importance of prioritizing local communities


Forest restoration occupies centre stage in global conversations about carbon removal and biodiversity conservation, but recent research rarely acknowledges social dimensions or environmental justice implications related to its implementation. We find that 294.5 million people live on tropical forest restoration opportunity land in the Global South, including 12% of the total population in low-income countries. Forest landscape restoration that prioritizes local communities by affording them rights to manage and restore forests provides a promising option to align global agendas for climate mitigation, conservation, environmental justice and sustainable development.

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Fig. 1: Forest restoration (FR) opportunity areas in the tropics.
Fig. 2: Country-level population and nighttime light radiance by increased removals from reforestation.

Data availability

Data for and from this analysis are available at the Harvard Dataverse ( The folder contains instructions for obtaining all input and output data that it does not contain due to size or sharing limitations.

Code availability

Code for analysis is available at the Harvard Dataverse ( The folder contains information on setting up the Docker container to reproduce analysis as well as static versions of software dependencies that are not part of the default Docker image.


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This work was supported by the Rights and Resources Initiative. J.T.E. undertook this research while supported by the National Science Foundation (grant no. 1912001). We thank J. Busch for providing comments on an earlier version of this manuscript and A. Frechette, C. Ginsburg and D. Kroeker-Maus for their research assistance.

Author information




J.T.E., J.A., J.A.O. and A.C. designed the analyses. J.T.E., J.A. and N.P. compiled the data and conducted the analyses. J.T.E., J.A.O., R.P., D.B., A.A. and A.C. wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to J. T. Erbaugh.

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Erbaugh, J.T., Pradhan, N., Adams, J. et al. Global forest restoration and the importance of prioritizing local communities. Nat Ecol Evol 4, 1472–1476 (2020).

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