Political ecology “playbook” for ecosystem restoration reveals principles for effective, equitable, transformative landscapes

In September of 2021, forest restoration and climate resilience experts published a “playbook” for ecosystem restoration. It factors-in climate change and forest loss as not just biophysical and environmental problems, but as political, economic and social issues as well.

It defines 10 principles for effective, equitable, and transformative landscapes:
Privilege local knowledge and practices.
Ensure participation of the most impacted groups.
Ensure social/environmental equity and justice.


Align restoration practices with local needs and aspirations.
Align state policies to support restoration.
Empower representative local decision-making authority.

Promote regenerative interventions.
Prioritize social and ecological benefits over financial returns.
Ensure fair funding.
Collaborate across country borders.


The urgency of restoring ecosystems to improve human wellbeing and mitigate climate and biodiversity crises is attracting global attention. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030) is a global call to action to support the restoration of degraded ecosystems. And yet, many forest restoration efforts, for instance, have failed to meet restoration goals; indeed, they worsened social precarities and ecological conditions.

By merely focusing on symptoms of forest loss and degradation, these interventions have neglected the underlying issues of equity and justice driving forest decline. To address these root causes, thus creating socially just and sustainable solutions, we develop the Political Ecology Playbook for Ecosystem Restoration.

We outline a set of ten principles for achieving long-lasting, resilient, and equitable ecosystem restoration. These principles are guided by political ecology, a framework that addresses environmental concerns from a broadly political economic perspective, attending to power, politics, and equity within specific geographic and historical contexts.

Drawing on the chain of explanation, this multi-scale, cross-landscapes Playbook aims to produce healthy relationships between people and nature that are ecologically, socially, and economically just – and thus sustainable and resilient – while recognizing the political nature of such relationships. We argue that the Political Ecology Playbook should guide ecosystem restoration worldwide.

Photo of elephant in Thailand by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay.

Read full playbook.

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