Restoration of forests and other key ecosystems is a major nature-based solution towards meeting a wide range of global development goals and national priorities, including Sustainable Development Goals, but the stakes are high and financial resources are limited. Country governments, international organizations, and other restoration stakeholders need to identify and prioritize locations suitable for restoration. To be truly effective, and best approximate realistic restoration potential, decision makers require information on not only ecological conditions for tree growth but also restoration’s socio-economic impacts: its benefits, costs, and risks. Locations where benefits are high relative to costs and risks are where restoration is more likely to be successful. These locations are also where initiatives are more likely to attract private investment needed to augment government funding and official development assistance.
In collaboration with the International Institute for Sustainability Australia, our objective was to find forest restoration priorities in Colombia for six different politically-relevant area targets, based on the maximization of two benefits (i.e. biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation) and the minimization of the associated costs.
Leveraging WePlan Forests, a forest landscape restoration planning framework, we used a combination of global and national-level biophysical and socioeconomic datasets to find spatially-explicit restoration scenarios. These solutions maximize carbon sequestration and reduce the risk of species extinction, while also considering opportunity cost to avoid conflict with agricultural activities and direct establishment cost as well as the potential for natural regeneration.
We identified planning solutions that perform well across both benefits simultaneously, despite trade-offs between them. We found that through strategic planning, cost-effective scenarios (i.e. those that balance biodiversity, carbon and cost) can achieve between 85.7% and 87.8% of maximum carbon benefit and between 95.1% and 99.9% of the maximum biodiversity benefit, depending on the restoration target. This translates to 0.34 - 2.68 Gt of carbon sequestration and 17 - 18% of mean reduction in the risk of species extinction.
Colombia has tremendous opportunities for restoration as it is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world with also a great potential for carbon sequestration. However, because of the complexities of restoration actions (accounting for multiple biophysical factors) and the social and environmental heterogeneity of Colombian landscape, prioritizing the regions for restoration is not an easy task. These results are a first step that can inform and guide key stakeholders and decision-makers and help the country work towards its ambitious restoration targets.
restoration, spatial planning, biodiversity, carbon, cost, optimization