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A global meta-analysis on the ecological drivers of forest restoration success. Nature Communications (Open Access Journal)

Two billion ha have been identified globally for forest restoration. Our meta-analysis encompassing 221 study landscapes worldwide reveals forest restoration enhances biodiversity by 15–84% and vegetation structure by 36–77%, compared with degraded ecosystems. For the first time, we identify the main ecological drivers of forest restoration success (defined as a return to a reference condition, that is, old-growth forest) at both the local and landscape scale.

These are as follows: the time elapsed since restoration began, disturbance type and landscape context. The time elapsed since restoration began strongly drives restoration success in secondary forests, but not in selectively logged forests (which are more ecologically similar to reference systems).

Landscape restoration will be most successful when previous disturbance is less intensive and habitat is less fragmented in the landscape. Restoration does not result in full recovery of biodiversity and vegetation structure, but can complement old-growth forests if there is sufficient time for ecological succession.