The restoration of forests and other key ecosystems is a major nature-based solution towards meeting a wide range of global development goals and national priorities, including Sustainable Development Goals, but the stakes are high and financial resources are limited. To meet these commitments, national governments, international organizations, and other stakeholders need to identify and prioritize locations suitable for restoration. To be truly effective and efficient, and to best approximate realistic restoration potential requires information on not only ecological conditions for tree growth but also restoration’s socio-economic impacts: its benefits, costs, and risks. Locations where benefits are high relative to its costs and risks are where restoration is more likely to achieve sustainable success. These locations are also where initiatives are more likely to attract private investment needed to augment government funding and official development assistance. 


In this context, the National Forest Monitoring and Forest Governance and Economics Teams at FAO, in collaboration with the Spatial Informatics Group (SIG), SilvaCarbon, NASA SERVIR, and researchers at Peking University and Duke University, are developing an Open Foris SEPAL mapping tool which combines ecological data on forest restoration with data on its benefits, costs, and risks. The tool is intended to support the preparation of strategic restoration plans for a given region—a country, group of countries, or region within a country—by providing improved, spatially explicit information on restoration suitability and impacts. It will aid decision makers in prioritizing identifying promising, cost-effective restoration locations, while and with identifying potential tradeoffs among impacts that might require further attention. It will focus on low and middle-income countries, which have great restoration potential but face more severe informational and financial constraints than high-income countries do. 

The tool will facilitate the creation of maps and related information most relevant to the user’s restoration region and objectives, through a user-friendly dashboard. For example, maps could  show where potential carbon storage gains (or livelihood benefits, etc.) are greatest relative to restoration costs and risks. Users will have the choice of using default weights for the input data layers or the possibility to customise their own weights. They are also able to impose constraints that are relevant for their region and objectives (e.g., restrict restoration to locations where forests naturally occur). The use of the tool will build on existing work and knowledge on reversing land degradation and implementing forest restoration, such as the ROAM process and the Forest Landscape Restoration Mechanism. This tool can provide dynamic insights that are complementary to these ongoing processes, allowing for the latest data to be used in real time to spark discussion, engagement and exchange between restoration practitioners and planners.


Potential for restoration tool application in Amazon
The Amazon Basin, one of the planet’s most precious environmental reserves, is affected by both anthropogenic and natural causes that result in the forest being lost. Decision-makers can use the restoration application to assist in planning restoration efforts. 


Considering that the beta version of the SEPAL tool is now ready for review and testing, we propose to organize a webinar with consortium members of SERVIR Amazonia  on June 9, 12:30 (GMT -5),  to review the main functions of the tool and discuss potential piloting with selected partners we already collaborate with in the Amazon.  You will have an opportunity to provide feedback to further improve the utility of the output information, particularly in the Amazonian context.  As the tool is still in the development phase, this webinar, and the subsequent meetings and consultations will inform further changes and improvements.

If you are interested in participating contact Alejandra Leiva: 


Yelena Finegold, FAO Forestry Officer
Yelena is a Forestry Officer on the National Forest Monitoring (NFM) team at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). She works on technical solutions for measuring and reporting forest changes, including deforestation, forest degradation and restoration. She develops tools in the SEPAL platform, which allows users to easily access, process and analyze satellite imagery using an open source cloud computing power for land monitoring applications. She has supported countries in Africa and Asia in quantifying activity data estimates for REDD+ reporting.

Khalil Walji, FAO
Khalil works as capacity development specialist within FAO’s Forestry Department where he focuses on a wide range of topics from People and Forests to Ecosystem restoration monitoring. He works on the FAO project “Mitigation potential of global actions to enhance forest carbon stocks,” funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, and he is a member of the coordination team for Monitoring Task Force. Khalil holds a master’s in Integrated studies of Land and Food Systems with a focus on nitrogen cycling and a bachelor’s in Natural Resources Conservation with a focus on forests, both from the University of British Columbia.

DR. Karis Tenneson, Spatial Informatics Group
Karis is the Director of the Environmental Mapping Domain with expertise in ecology, statistics, natural resources management, remote sensing and GIS. Her work focuses on decision support tools to monitor land use and land cover dynamics, forest biomass estimation using LiDAR, and ecosystem services assessment. She has developed various methods and knowledge transfer activities in support of SilvaCarbon capacity building initiatives aimed at more efficiently generating activity data for REDD+ and greenhouse gas inventories. These efforts include: OpenForis applications, Collect Earth Online and tools within SEPAL, food security research, cloud-based land cover monitoring system development, and capacity building activities.

Dr. Jeff Vincent, Duke University
Jeffrey is the Clarence F. Korstian Professor of Forest Economics and Management in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Vincent’s research focuses on the economics of natural resource management and policy in developing countries. Much of his work focuses on the valuation of ecosystem services of tropical forests. Currently, his main project is a 3-year NASA-funded project on mangrove conservation in South Asia. He has related work on mangroves underway in the Philippines and Thailand.

Yoshihiko Aga
Yoshihiko is a Forestry Officer leading the FAO project on “Mitigation potential of global actions to enhance forest carbon stocks,” funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, and is a member of the Monitoring Task Force, Core Team.

John Dilger, Spatial Informatics Group
John is a Google Earth Engine Specialist and Analyst for the Environmental mapping Domain of Spatial Informatics Group. Prior to joining SIG, John was a Geoinformatics Fellow with the NASA DEVELOP National Program working out of Ames Research Center. There John provided technical remote sensing, GIS, and coding support to DEVELOP project teams – particularly in the applied applications areas of water quality, ecological forecasting, urban development, and disasters. He has working experience automating methodologies for estimating forest aboveground biomass with LIDAR technology and building tools using cloud remote sensing platforms.