Restoring Tropical Forests: a practical guide

Our new book is finally here!

Restoring Tropical Forests is a hands-on guide to restoring tropical forest ecosystems to degraded areas. Based on concepts and innovative techniques developed at FORRU-CMU, this book provides advice and clearly illustrated instructions, covering every stage of forest restoration, from site selection, engaging local communities, fund-raising, formulating and implementing project plans to planting trees and monitoring progress. It also explains how to carry out research to refine restoration methods and adapt them to local ecological and socio-economic conditions. Restoring Tropical Forests is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in restoring tropical forests, including practitioners, researchers, students and policy makers. 
With a foreword by HRH Prince of Wales

Available now in English, Spanish and French from 
Kew Publishing.

Or browse the PDF's here.

This project was sponsored by Britain's Darwin Initiative.

For more details go here.


Twenty years ago, the decline of the world’s tropical forests was seen as an inevitable and irreversible consequence of economic development. The idea that tropical forest ecosystems could actually be restored was viewed by many as naïve idealism. Scientists portrayed tropical forests as being far too complex to be re-constructed, whilst conservation NGO’s regarded the idea as an unnecessary distraction from the vital task of funding the protection of remaining primary forest.

Recently, however, attitudes have undergone a paradigm shift. Restoration is seen as complementary to protecting primary forest, especially where protected areas have failed to prevent deforestation. Two decades of research have yielded tried and tested methods that have transformed forest restoration from a romantic “pipedream” into a readily achievable goal. By combining nature’s regenerative capacity with tree planting and other management practices, it is now possible to rapidly restore both the structure and ecological functioning of tropical forests and achieve substantial biodiversity recovery, within 10 years.

Conservation organizations now recognize restoration as vital to revive degraded landscapes and improve rural livelihoods, by providing a diverse range of forest products and by developing payment systems for environmental services. Its inclusion in the UN’s REDD+ scheme, to “enhance carbon stocks” and mitigate global warming, has resulted in unprecedented demand for restoration knowledge, skills and training. Such knowledge is vital to enable developing tropical countries to cash in on the global trade in carbon credits, whilst reducing biodiversity losses and meeting the needs to local communities. But very little practical advice has been published to satisfy this demand.

This book provides such advice. It presents scientifically tested techniques to restore diverse climax tropical forest ecosystems that are resilient to climate change, using indigenous forest tree species, for biodiversity conservation, environmental protection and to support the livelihoods of rural communities. It is based on more than 20 years of research, carried out by FORRU-CMU, as well as local knowledge and experiences, exchanged at hundreds of workshops, conferences and project consultations, since the early 1990’s.
The book presents generic concepts and practices that can be applied to revive forest ecosystems on all tropical continents, in an accessible format and in three languages (English, French and Spanish) and with case studies that illustrate a diversity of successful restoration projects from around the world. It is aimed at the full range of stakeholders, whose collaboration is vital to the success of restoration projects.

It provides planners, policy makers and funding agencies with viable and practicable alternatives to conventional mono-culture plantations, to attain reforestation goals. For protected area managers, communities, and the NGO’s that work with them, there’s some solid advice on planning restoration projects, as well as scientifically tested instructions for growing, planting and caring for native forest tree species. And for scientists, the book suggests dozens of research project ideas and provides details of standardized research protocols, to develop new restoration systems to meet local needs. There’s even an appendix of data collection proforma, so that researchers can collect data sets that are comparable with FORRU’s that are now being replicated in several countries.


The continued destruction of the tropical forests is probably the greatest threat to our planet’s biodiversity. Although both awareness of the problem and a willingness to solve it have ever been higher, they are ineffective without sound, scientifically based practical advice. We, therefore, hope that this book will not only inspire more people to get involve in saving the worlds tropical forests, but also provide them with effective tools to do so.

Foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales

CHAPTER 1 – Tropical Deforestation: A Threat to Life on Earth
Section 1.1 – Rate and causes of tropical deforestation
Section 1.2 – Consequences of tropical deforestation
Section 1.3–  What is forest restoration?
Section 1.4 – The benefits of forest restoration
CHAPTER 2 – Understanding Tropical Forests
Section 2.1 – Tropical forest types
Section 2.2 – Understanding forest regeneration
Section 2.3 – Climate change and restoration
CHAPTER 3 Recognizing the Problem

Section 3.1 – Recognizing levels of degradation
Section 3.2 – Rapid site assessment
Section 3.3 – Interpreting data from a rapid site assessment
CHAPTER 4 – Planning Forest Restoration 
Section 4.1 – Who are the stake-holders?
Section 4.2 – Defining the objectives 
Section 4.3 – Fitting forests into landscapes
Section 4.4 – Choosing sites for restoration
Section 4.5 – Drafting a project plan
Section 4.6 – Fundraising  

CHAPTER 5 – Tools for Restoring Tropical Forests
Section 5.1 – Protection
Section 5.2 – ‘Assisted’ or ‘accelerated’ natural regeneration
Section 5.3 – The framework species method
Section 5.4 – Maximum diversity methods
Section 5.5 – Site amelioration and nurse plantations
Section 5.6 – Costs and benefits

CHAPTER 6 – Grow Your Own Trees
Section 6.1 – Building a nursery
Section 6.2 – Collecting and handling tree seeds

Section 6.3 – Germinating seeds
Section 6.4 – Potting
Section 6.5 – Caring for trees in the nursery
Section 6.6 – Research for improving native tree propagation
CHAPTER 7 – Tree Planting, Maintenance and Monitoring
Section 7.1 – Preparing to plant
Section 7.2 – Planting
Section 7.3 – Caring for planted trees
Section 7.4 – Monitoring progress
Section 7.5 – Research for improving tree performance
Section 7.6 – Research on biodiversity recovery

CHAPTER 8 – Setting up a Forest Restoration Research Unit
Section 8.1 – Organization
Section 8.2 – Working at all levels
Section 8.3 – Funding
Section 8.4 – Information management
Section 8.5 – Selecting suitable tre
e species
Section 8.6 – Reaching out: education and extension services


A1 – Data-collection sheets
A2 – Statistical tests