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Alleviating forest degradation in the Lancang-Mekong Region requires closing management—measurement gaps

Abstract

Deforestation and forest degradation are having profound negative impacts on social-ecological systems in the emerging economies across the tropics. Consequently, interest in restoring and rehabilitating degraded forests has been growing. This paper explores current issues related to addressing forest degradation in the Lancang-Mekong Region (LMR) of Southeast Asia through a review of the use of criteria and indicators for forest degradation and rehabilitation. Forest degradation must be understood in the context of its underlying drivers, which are numerous and complex. Understanding these underlying drivers of degradation requires diagnosing the entwined political, social, economic, and environmental systems that affect forests. Landscapes are the relevant scales to diagnose and intervene for improved forests. Interventions to restore or rehabilitate forests should be process-driven, focused on the underlying social, ecological and political processes that degrade landscapes. Interventions should also include negotiation among all actors influencing and competing for natural resource claims in forest landscapes. Criteria and indicators for forest landscape restoration should therefore help to improve the governance of forest landscapes. Criteria and indicators provide measures of the biophysical outcomes of degradation, in addition to processes, but these should be adapted to changing contexts and emerging challenges, and should rectify any pre-existing flawed change-logic. Restoration activities should synthesize, integrate, and build upon the rich history of pre-existing restoration guidelines, but should be adaptable in order to be applied effectively in the contexts of local landscapes. This project is facilitating a dialogue around the use of criteria and indicators to help solve the degradation challenge in the LMR. We will trial the use of the criteria and indicators generated through this research in the LMR to learn what works and what doesn’t. This will provide an opportunity to build consensus around the ways in which restoration investments made by governments, civil society, and the private sector can influence sustainability.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the Asia Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management and Rehabilitation (APFNet) project entitled: “Development of Criteria for Rehabilitating Degraded Tropical Forests in the Lancang-Mekong Region”. The criteria and indicator framework were partially developed through a workshop hosted at the Vietnam National University of Forestry (VNUF). The research team would like to thank Hoàng Văn Sâm from VNUF for making this workshop possible as well as all participants of workshop for their meaningful contributions. The research team would also like to specially acknowledge Li Jia for her valuable contributions to this review. We are also grateful for the helpful review provided by Robin Chazdon.

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Correspondence to Guangyu Wang.

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Project funding: This study was supported by the Asia Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management and Rehabilitation (APFNet) project entitled: “Development of Criteria for Rehabilitating Degraded Tropical Forests in the Lancang-Mekong Region”.

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Corresponding editor: Yu Lei.

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Brewer, J., Langston, J.D., Ferretti-Gallon, K. et al. Alleviating forest degradation in the Lancang-Mekong Region requires closing management—measurement gaps. J. For. Res. 31, 2033–2051 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11676-020-01111-z

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Keywords

  • Forest rehabilitation
  • Forest restoration
  • Forest landscape restoration
  • Sustainable forest management
  • Criteria and indicators