Löf, M., Madsen, P., Metslaid, M., Witzell, J., & Jacobs, D. F. (2019). Restoring forests: regeneration and ecosystem function for the future. New Forests, 50(2), 139-151.
Conventions and policies for biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation state the need for increased protection, restoration and climate change adaptation of forests. Much degraded land may be targeted for large-scale forest restoration, yet challenges include costs, a shortage of regeneration material and the need for restored forests to serve as a resource for communities. To ensure ecosystem function for the future, forest restoration programs must: (1) learn from the past; (2) integrate ecological knowledge; (3) advance regeneration techniques and systems; (4) overcome biotic and abiotic disturbances and (5) adapt for future forest landscapes. Historical forest conditions, while site-specific, may help to identify the processes that leave long-term legacies in current forests and to understand tree migration biology/population dynamics and their relationship with climate change. Ecological theory around plant–plant interactions has shown the importance of negative (competition) and positive (facilitation) interactions for restoration, which will become more relevant with increasing drought due to climate change. Selective animal browsing influences plant–plant interactions and challenges restoration efforts to establish species-rich forests; an integrated approach is needed to simultaneously manage ungulate populations, landscape carrying capacity and browse-tolerant regeneration. A deeper understanding of limiting factors that affect plant establishment will facilitate nursery and site preparation systems to overcome inherent restoration challenges. Severe anthropogenic disturbances connected to global change have created unprecedented pressure on forests, necessitating novel ecological engineering, genetic conservation of tree species and landscape-level approaches that focus on creating functional ecosystems in a cost-effective manner.