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

Lindsay F. Banin, 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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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 B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1867
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
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 supported 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

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors.


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


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