Nations (UN) Framework Convention on
Climate Change, the program for Reducing
Emissions from Deforestation and Forest
Degradation (REDD+), or the UN Food and
Agriculture Organization. This lack of recognition reflects fundamental misperceptions
about the ecology, conservation values, locations, and antiquity of the grassy biomes.
The World Resources Institute’s (WRI’s)
map of “Forest and Landscape Restoration
Opportunities” (2) serves as an example of
these misperceptions. The map identifies 23
million km2 of the terrestrial biosphere as
highly suitable for tree planting. Yet much
of the area targeted for “forest restoration”
corresponds to the world’s ancient grassy
biomes. The WRI erroneously assumes
that nonforest areas where climate could
theoretically permit forest development
are “deforested,” an assumption rooted
in outdated ideas about potential vegetation and the roles of fire and herbivores in
natural systems (8). This map is intended as
a tool to help meet the Bonn Challenge to
“restore 150 million hectares of the world’s
deforested and degraded lands by 2020.”
Although many ecosystems within the
grassy biomes might benefit from ecological restoration, the restoration strategies
proposed by WRI (2) are incompatible with
Meanwhile, among the landscapes cor-
rectly identified as deforested by the WRI
map, extensive areas of agriculture are not
considered restoration opportunities (2).
Clearly, the economic output of agricultural
lands makes them expensive to reforest. But
attempts to offset agricultural deforestation
through afforestation of the grassy biomes
will simply worsen biodiversity losses and
further compromise ecosystem services.
The “Forest and Landscape Restoration
Opportunities” map was produced and pre-
sumably vetted by influential scientific and
environmental organizations, which lends
it legitimacy. WRI (2) collaborated with
and/or was supported by the International
Union for the Conservation of Nature, the
Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape
Restoration, the Program on Forests, the
University of Maryland, South Dakota State
University, the German Ministry for the
Environment, and the Forestry Commission
of Great Britain. The producers of the
map also acknowledge receiving review
comments from the UN Environment
That such a scientifically flawed analysis is poised to promote misinformed tree
planting is emblematic of deep misunderstandings about the grassy biomes, as well
as their devaluation relative to forests. We
worry that so long as tree planting is viewed
as innately good and the grassy biomes
are assumed to be the result of deforestation, afforestation projects will face limited
public resistance and analyses such as this
WRI map will escape scientific scrutiny.
Deforestation and forest degradation are
critical problems that must be addressed,
but with due consideration of the value of
the many naturally nonforest biomes that
also face tremendous pressure from human-caused environmental change.
Joseph W. Veldman,1 Gerhard E.
Overbeck,2 Daniel Negreiros,3
Gregory Mahy,4 Soizig Le Stradic,4
G. Wilson Fernandes,3,5 Giselda Durigan,6
Elise Buisson,7 Francis E. Putz,8
William J. Bond9
1Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal
Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA.
2Department of Botany, Universidade Federal do Rio
Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS, 91501-970, Brazil.
3Ecologia Evolutiva e Biodiversidade, Universidade
Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, MG, 30161-
901, Brazil. 4Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, Biodiversity
and Landscape unit, University of Liege, Gembloux,
5030, Belgium. 5Department of Biology, Stanford
de Assis, Instituto Florestal, Assis, SP, 19802-970,
d’Avignon et des Pays de Vaucluse, Avignon, 84911,
France. 8Department of Biology, University of Florida,
Gainesville, FL 32611, USA. 9Department of Biological
Sciences, University of Cape Town and South African
Environmental Observation Network, NRF,
Rondebosch, 7701, South Africa.
*Corresponding author. E-mail: email@example.com
1. C. L. Parretal., Trends Ecol.Evol. 29, 205 (2014).
2. WRI, “Atlas of Forest and Landscape Restoration
Opportunities” (World Resources Institute,
Washington, DC, 2014); www.wri.org/resources/maps/
3. F. E. Putz, K. H. Redford, Glob.Environ.Change 19, 400 (2009).
4. R.B.Jackson etal.,Science 310,1944(2005).
5. S. T. Berthrong, E. G. Jobbagy, R. B. Jackson,Ecol.Appl. 19,
6. L. L. Bremer, K. A. Farley, Biodivers.Conserv. 19, 3893 (2010).
7. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,
CDM Methodology Booklet, 6th Edition (UNFCCC, 2014);
8. W. J. Bond, F. I. Woodward, G. F. Midgley, New Phytol. 165, 525
Highland grassland in
Brazil is considered
a forest landscape
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