By Eric Hammond
ESG policy too often relies on faulty understanding of complex biological terms, rules, and events. Reforestation, or forest recovery, is distinct from afforestation. Afforestation plants trees in areas where the native ecosystem does not normally support forest growth. This means afforestation can be a destructive activity. It replaces one native ecosystem with another when it is practiced on sites not suffering severe anthropogenic change. Reforestation grows forests where forests once grew naturally. It is regenerating a new version of what once was. The UN’s 15th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG15) directs practitioners to “protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.” This directive precludes afforestation. When anthropogenic changes are severe, site reclamation is a good remedy. Reclamation establishes tree cover and increases biodiversity meeting SDG15. Effective reforestation is restorative; it increases animal and plant biodiversity on restoration sites. An effective forest recovery project is carefully designed and has well defined scope, vision, targets, goals, objectives, and indicators of progress. It addresses social, ecological, and economic elements within the stakeholder community and in the planted forest. To accomplish these goals there are tradeoffs. A consensus around best practice in restoration has developed. Restoration should 1) protect existing forest and encourage natural reproduction; 2) maximize biodiversity recovery using native plants of known provenance and wide genetic diversity; 3) involve all stakeholders; 4) meet multiple goals – ecological, social, and economic; 5) restore multiple functions of an ecosystem; 6) be assessed against clear goals and objectives; 7) be managed adaptively for long-term resilience; and 8) protect the restored forest for the long- term.