Articles on restoration and rewilding

Outlook magazine has some recent articles on ecological restoration and rewilding:

From Seed To Forest: The slow road of ecological restoration
By Ananda Banerjee

India’s Revenant Forests
The country’s programme for restoration of lost green cover makes no sense. Neither on paper nor on the ground.
By T. R. Shankar Raman

Weed out the Brutish Colonisers
By Ramesh Venkataraman
Check the magazine for the link


A critical view on the Miyawaki approach to urban greening/tree planting by Dr RJ Ranjit Daniels and Ms Anjana Vencatesan (Care Earth, Chennai). Worth a read!

Why the Miyawaki Method Is Not a Suitable Way to Afforest Chennai

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An article of mine appeared in The Hindu Sunday Magazine today. It stems from work and ideas that Divya Mudappa, I and our team at NCF have been grappling with for many years. Do read. Comments welcome.

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This was very well articulated - thanks!

Follow up questoin/debate around 1 few points :

  • We need many to restore, given the scale and rapidity of destruction. Else we’ll have massive net loss on a continued basis. How does one make the “right planting knowledge” available easily for various bio-regions?
  • Agroforestry will necessarily include fruit trees that are non native. Diverse planting may be worse than purely endemic, naturally grown forests but are better than monocultures and constant desertification approaches to agriculture. A very hard stance as a purist may scare people off planting altogether?
  • Forests themselves change over time. Natural succession happens as well and various ecosystems are sometimes interim stages. How does one figure out a natural grassland from one that is at a certain stage because the place got chopped down and desertified and pioneers/grasses have started to kick of succession again?

I think a session on some of these, and maybe a platform to share data widely may help. cc @akshay @karanthkk @erbdex @artid @Kapil.097 what say?


Thanks for the comments. We are presently engaged in an effort to answer the question regarding the right planting knowledge. It is nascent and I will share details about it if it bears some fruit and at an appropriate time later…

I do not want to take a very hard or purist stance, except for some areas that have high conservation value. There is still large areas, incl. human-use landscapes for a lot of middle ground. The main point is to widen the net of species to more natives as far as possible, rather than more easy/familiar non-natives.

Your third question has to be answered in context of specific areas/landscapes. But this paper might give some ideas of what would be the reasoning or approach:
When is a ‘forest’ a savanna, and whydoes it matter?

See also:
Trees as Nature-Based Solutions: A Global South Perspective
Trees as Nature-Based Solutions: A Global South Perspective - ScienceDirect


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This keeps coming up often. Undoubtedly, natural regeneration will create the most robust ecosystems, support most life and are the best way to do it. Of course, there’s the nudges in the amazon one reads about that caused it to be super food rich as well, helping support more life.

But given the populations everywhere, and human needs, what percentage of the total land use can be dedicated to the “truly wild” approach to regeneration? What are the other strategies elsewhere that are still better than “no trees”? How do we create maps of bioregions to help understand and drive this quickly, at scale?

Good points. I think the emphasis on natural regeneration is a case of the pendulum swinging back to counter the hype and hoopla that often accompanies big tree planting projects (the criticism surrounding the Trillion Trees project as an example). And it is true that natural regeneration does work better in many cases but much of the examples the Robin Chazdon and others cite or refer to involve degraded areas that are continuous with larger intact ecosystems (such as near Nyungwe, Kibale etc). When degraded forests/ecosystems abut such larger intact forests/ecosystems, there are opportunities for natural recovery through seed dispersal from adjoining areas etc.

The question about active restoration arises when such degraded areas are in the middle of nowhere or if seed sources or mother plants are simply not there in the landscape anymore. In our own case, we found that rainforest fragments that were more isolated responded better to active restoration, while those near larger tracts of forest less so (and could be left to themselves for more efficient use of resources).

Right now as a part of our restoration efforts, we are also experimenting with different restoration treatment methods (leave it alone, weeding only, seeding only, weeding+seeding etc) to assess what works better or how the recovery differs under different treatments.

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Another interesting article from a while ago by Ashish Kothari on the net zero greenwash that is taking root in policy circles:

The ‘net-zero’ greenwash

Climate crisis and biodiversity loss are becoming impossible to ignore

13 July 2021, Ashish Kothari

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Dr Chazdon’s plenary at ATREE on Assisted natural regeneration of tropical forests: a cost-effective nature-based solution for conservation & restoration.

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A new scientific publication from the Anamalai Hills Rainforest Restoration project under the Western Ghats Programme of the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF). Free access as of now:
Hariharan, P., & Raman, T. R. S. 2021. Active restoration fosters better recovery of tropical rainforest birds than natural regeneration in degraded forest fragments. Journal of Applied Ecology, Online Early (12 pages). DOI: 10.1111/1365-­2664.14052

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This appeared in the Economic Times today. Has a number of relevant points flagged for those of us engaged in tree planting programs.

Here’s a screenshot of the e-paper in case its pay-walled.

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Also sharing this article that I wrote with Dr MD Madhusudan a little while ago. Appeared in The Hindu Sunday Magazine on 13th February 2022

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I learned recently that most of what we think of as “forests” in the Indian peninsula can be categorized more accurately as mesic savannas.

Had a related question from the same - what are the restoration strategies for the same? What would those look like for agroforestry interventions?

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Good question. Restoration of mesic savannas (spanning deciduous forests to dry thorn forests in forest type classification) would require focus on both trees and the near-continuous layer of grass cover. Tree densities would be usually at <10 to c. 300-350 per hectare along a moisture gradient, and there would be a good diversity of grasses, herbs, and shrubs to consider. In some ongoing restoration in the Mudumalai-Bandipur landscape, the grasses act to prevent re-invasion by weeds that were removed during restoration.

As for agro-forestry, I do not know very good examples. But some of the coffee plantations in the drier tracts of Kodagu and Hassan have a diverse native tree canopy with other edible fruit trees and crop plants.