Around the world, huge swaths of temperate and tropical forests have been cleared for human activity. Many of those lands are being used productively to grow food and raise livestock that we need and, with yet better practices, can sustainably yield even more food. Yet many other deforested lands are degraded, produce less than one cow per hectare, and are good candidates for reforestation.


The Numbers

More than 200 million hectares of deforested land provide little or no food production, and are eligible for cost-effective reforestation. That’s an area around three times the size of Texas.

Reforesting these lands would sequester 3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year (GtCO2e/year). That’s comparable to the emissions from 642 million passenger vehicles per year.

The Challenges

In some cases, reforestation can be a relatively expensive form of land-based sequestration, and can involve difficult changes in livelihoods. In other cases, reforestation can be inexpensive and as easy as not burning grazing land.

Moving Forward

Restoration opportunities exist around the world, in both temperate and tropical regions. Our analysis excluded reforestation in boreal regions since scientists question the climate benefits of reforestation in these regions. By investing now in both implementing known reforestation opportunities, and the science of mapping wide-scale reforestation opportunities, reforestation could provide the largest land-based climate mitigation opportunity while providing cleaner water, cleaner air, flood control, more fertile soils, not to mention wood and tree crops.

Case study

Spotlight: Cacao Agroforestry in the Brazilian Amazon


In Brazil’s Para region, small-scale farmers and ranchers have begun substituting their former crops and cattle ranching for cocoa agroforestry. The Para region contains at least 1.26 million hectares of deforested areas that have naturally high-fertility soils and are suitable for cocoa production.

Cocoa is in short supply worldwide, making it an attractive crop that can increase family incomes for small farms. And restoring forests with cocoa trees increases carbon storage, increases biodiversity and helps maintain soil fertility. To that end, the Nature Conservancy is working with local farmers in Para to help with landscape planning and teach responsible agroforestry practices and cocoa cultivation.

A wide variety of opportunities for forest restoration exist around the world, ranging from natural regeneration, to enrichment planting, to high-yield timber plantations. Opportunities occur in most countries, including both large countries like Brazil, India, and the United States, and many smaller countries like Panama, Ecuador, and Benin.

For Reference:

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Avoided forest conversion

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Natural forest management

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Improved plantations

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Avoided fuelwood harvest

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Forest fire management

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Grasslands & Agricultural Lands

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