The road to recovery: a synthesis of outcomes from ecosystem restoration in tropical and sub-tropical Asian forests

Lindsay F Banin* (Corresponding Author), Elizabeth H Raine, Lucy M Rowland, Robin L Chazdon, Stuart W Smith, Nur Estya Binte Rahman, Adam Butler, Christopher Philipson, Grahame G Applegate, E Petter Axelsson, Sugeng Budiharta, Siew Chin Chua, Mark E J Cutler, Stephen Elliott, Elva Gemita, Elia Godoong, Laura L B Graham, Robin M Hayward, Andy Hector, Ulrik IlstedtJoel Jensen, Srinivasan Kasinathan, Christopher J Kettle, Daniel Lussetti, Benjapan Manohan, Colin Maycock, Kang Min Ngo, Michael J O'Brien, Anand M Osuri, Glen Reynolds, Yap Sauwai, Stefan Scheu, Mangarah Silalahi, Eleanor M Slade, Tom Swinfield, David A Wardle, Charlotte Wheeler, Kok Loong Yeong, David F R P Burslem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Current policy is driving renewed impetus to restore forests to return ecological function, protect species, sequester carbon and secure livelihoods. Here we assess the contribution of tree planting to ecosystem restoration in tropical and sub-tropical Asia; we synthesize evidence on mortality and growth of planted trees at 176 sites and assess structural and biodiversity recovery of co-located actively restored and naturally regenerating forest plots. Mean mortality of planted trees was 18% 1 year after planting, increasing to 44% after 5 years. Mortality varied strongly by site and was typically ca 20% higher in open areas than degraded forest, with height at planting positively affecting survival. Size-standardized growth rates were negatively related to species-level wood density in degraded forest and plantations enrichment settings. Based on community-level data from 11 landscapes, active restoration resulted in faster accumulation of tree basal area and structural properties were closer to old-growth reference sites, relative to natural regeneration, but tree species richness did not differ. High variability in outcomes across sites indicates that planting for restoration is potentially rewarding but risky and context-dependent. Restoration projects must prepare for and manage commonly occurring challenges and align with efforts to protect and reconnect remaining forest areas. The abstract of this article is available in Bahasa Indonesia in the electronic supplementary material. This article is part of the theme issue 'Understanding forest landscape restoration: reinforcing scientific foundations for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20210090
Number of pages17
JournalPhilosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences
Issue number1867
Early online date14 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding. This research was funded by a NERC Global Partnerships
Seedcorn Fund (grant no. NE/T005092/1) grant to L.F.B., D.F.R.P.B. and L.M.R. to initiate the FOR-RESTOR network, an ongoing collaborative initiative to bring together and disseminate evidence on best practice for tropical forest restoration. L.M.R. was additionally supported by a NERC Independent Research Fellowship (grant no. NE/N014022). N.E.B.R., S.W.S. and D.A.W. were sup- ported by the Singapore Ministry of Education Research Fund (grant no. MOE2018-T2-2-156) and D.A.W. by National Research Foundation Singapore (grant no. NRF2019-ITC001-001). U.I. acknowledges funding from the Swedish Research Council FORMAS (grant number FORMAS-2016-20005).
Acknowledgements. We thank Yen Kheng Chua and Kenichi Shono for follow-up support and the National Parks Board and National Insti- tute of Education for institutional support that allowed the provision of data from Singaporean sites. We thank IKEA and Sabah Foun- dation for supporting the research at the INIKEA Sow-a-Seed restoration site, David Alloysius and Jan Falck for their role in estab- lishing the species experiment and Annie Sandgren (IKEA) for her contributions to discussions during our workshops. We would like to thank Lourens Poorter, Tommaso Jucker, two anonymous reviewers and the handling editor for helpful comments on our manuscript. We extend thanks to all the authors and contributors of published reports and papers, whose efforts in documenting their restoration activities made the synthesis possible.

Data Availability Statement

Data and code for the statistical models are made available through the UKCEH Environmental Information Data Centre (EIDC).

Electronic supplementary material is available online at


  • carbon
  • biodiversity
  • degradation
  • regeneration
  • tree planting
  • nature-based solutions


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