New research funding for sustainable forest transitions announced

Reversing forest loss is essential for climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation. We are pleased to announce that Dr Johan Oldekop has been awarded a grant of €2 million to investigate sustainable forest transitions from the European Research Council.

SDG 15 aims to protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of ecosystems such as forests. Amidst growing interest in natural climate solutions, such as tree planting schemes around the UN climate negotiations, the Bonn Challenge aims to restore 350 million hectares of forests globally by 2030 – an area larger than India.

While researchers have devoted much attention to deforestation, our knowledge of the processes driving the reverse phenomenon – reforestation, and their socioeconomic implications are poorly understood. This lack of understanding significantly risks undermining forest restoration efforts that are both environmentally effective and socially just.

Over the next five years, the REFOREST research project led by Dr Oldekop will investigate the environmental and social outcomes of reforestation processes. The project will analyse high resolution public social and environmental datasets at an unprecedented scale in Mexico, Brazil, India, Nepal - all countries with globally important forest cover. The results will be used to develop key performance indicators, data visualisations and spatial mapping tool to support to the design and evaluation of forest restoration interventions.

Dr Johan Oldekop

We hope the results will deliver a needed step-change in understanding of processes driving simultaneous improvements in forest cover and human development, enabling the development of an empirically-grounded framework of Sustainable Forest Transitions. This new framework will generate a paradigm shift in how we think about forest transitions by also considering their social outcomes.

Dr Johan Oldekop

The REFOREST project builds on Dr Oldekop’s world-leading research into forests and livelihoods, and his numerous international collaborations. Previous research in Nepal published in Nature Sustainability showed that community forest management reduces both deforestation and poverty, while Nature Plants published work examining the mega trends that will affect forests over the next decade.

Dr Oldekop will lead a team of two post-doctoral research assistants and three PhD students. The team will work with four in-country partners and an international advisory board.

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