Standards for Reforestation within Restoration projects

As restoration is in itself an intricate network of interrelated actions, it makes sense that the best option to achieve long-term success is to use a holistic approach towards ecosystem restoration. With this in mind, Plant-for-the-Planet has developed restoration/reforestation guidelines covering biological, social, and economic aspects to ensure high quality projects are supported by our platform.  

These standards build on academic literature and the International Principles and Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration (by SER et al.), the Principles for Ecosystem Restoration to Guide the United Nations Decade 2021–2030 (by UN Environment Program, FAO et al.), and the Road to Restoration (by WRI & FAO).

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Plant-for-the-Planet supports the
United Nations Environment Programme

Restoration Project Review Board
The Restoration Project Review board advises on restoration project standards and makes the final decision on which projects meet our restoration standards to participate on the Plant-for-the-Planet Platform.
  • Our Corporate Partnerships Team
    Dr. Pilar Angelica Gómez Ruiz
    Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán (CICY)
  • Our Corporate Partnerships Team
    Ricardo Romero
    Former Program Manager
    International Tree Foundation
  • Our Corporate Partnerships Team
    Teresa Muthoni Gitonga
    Africa Project Manager
    One Tree Planted
  • Our Corporate Partnerships Team
    Dr. Peter Borchardt
    Community-Based Restoration Specialist
    CEN Centrum für Erdsystemforschung und Nachhaltigkeit Universität Hamburg
  • Our Corporate Partnerships Team
    Prof. Stuart Pimm
    Doris Duke Professor of Conservation
    Duke University

    Standards Version 1.1, May 2023

    Projects must meet at least 27 of the 31 main standards (including all core standards) to receive donations via the Plant-for-the-Planet platform. To qualify as a top project, you must meet at least 12 of the 19 top standards.

    Core Standards

    No.IssueCriteriaMain StandardTop StandardVerification Category & Metric

    Do you have a project plan? / Type of project
    1.1 Existence of a project with clear objectivesThe project has a written plan with clear goals, objectives and the work is aligned with it.VERIFIED
    Copy of the plan or interview with the project leaders

    What is the original problem / is the cause of degradation solved?
    1.2 Underlying drivers and root causes of deforestation or degradationWork in place to address drivers of deforestation or degradation in the project areaDegradation cause eliminated in the project area and work in place to address drivers of deforestation or degradation in the community or surroundings of the project area.PLAUSIBILITY CHECK
    Who is implementing the project?1.3 Type of organizationRegistered as:
    Non-profit organization


    Community groups organization

    Registration certificate / registration number

    Land tenure
    1.4 Agreement on land tenure

    If buying; payment for land
    Land tenure clearly defined and without conflicts. No land dispossession to local/indigenous communities.

    If buying land, fair payment and by will of local owners.
    Copy of land tenure contract / Agreement / Letter of Intention

    Does the community support the project?
    1.5 Community approvalNo current conflict between the community and the project implementation Involvement/consultation or workshops with the community before and during
    project implementation.
    IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROJECT1.6 Species in the projectNot planting any invasive species to the region. Invasive alien species (IAS) are species introduced into places outside their natural range that have negative impacts on native biodiversity (IUCN, 2018)VERIFIED
    List of species planted

    Who is involved in project implementation?
    1.7 Community Working with community, women, and indigenous groups (if applicable).

    Working with a diverse selection of community members in the project, for ex. women, youth, etc. At least 1/3 of women working in the projectSELF-REPORTED

    Agreement / Code of Ethics
    1.8 Community involvement Community is involved in the implementation of the project.Community has been involved since the planning phase of the project.SELF-REPORTED


    1.9 On-site visits1.9 Full access on-site to reviewers and observersVERIFIED
    Site visits

    Biological Standards

    No.IssueCriteriaMain StandardTop StandardVerification Category & Metric

    Where is the project located? – What are the current conditions? – Have potential unintended negative consequences of reforestation been considered?
    2.1 Original ecosystem type No conversion of non-forest ecosystems to forest Projects from high endangered ecosystems or working with endangered speciesVERIFIED Ecosystem type verification via Global Forest Watch, KBA and satellite analysis images for no conversion
    2.2 Vegetation present in the area: grass/ bare ground some vegetation/ shrubs established vegetation (native or invasive)
    No cutting of native forest

    (Cutting of invasive/ non-native species is allowed to improve ecosystem health)

    Evaluation of vegetation present at site before the project starts or during project development (i.e., List of plant species present, indicating if native, non-native or invasive, general description of site and surrounding landscape).
    2.3 Unintended negative consequences

    Potential negative consequences of planting considered (e.g., no planting of fast growing non-native species in agroforestry projects in arid systems where they could disrupt the water table,; no planting exclusively evergreen trees where ecosystems are deciduous dominated).
    Planting according to the natural original composition.

    2.4 Project context

    Project is developing opportunities
    to contribute to
    regional conservation goals

    What are you going to plant?
    3.1 Number of species plantedFor restoration projects:
    Temperate: 2 species
    Tropical:8 species
    Mangroves: 1 species

    For agroforestry projects:
    Temperate: 2 species
    Tropical : 5 species. If the area is smaller than 1ha at least 3 species planted.
    For restoration projects:
    Temperate: 4 species
    Tropical: 15 species.
    Mangroves: 2 species

    For agroforestry projects:
    Temperate: 2 species
    Tropical: 8 species. If the area is smaller than 1h at least 5 species planted.
    List of species planted, percentages and field visits
    3.2 % of each speciesFor restoration projects:
    No species should represent more than 50% of total. * In systems where naturally one species dominates this point doesn’t apply.

    For agroforestry projects:
    No species should represent more than 60% of total
    For restoration and agroforestry projects:
    No species represent more than 40%
    3.3 % of non-native speciesFor restoration projects:
    Maximum 30% of non-native species with a justification for their use

    For agroforestry projects:
    Maximum 70% of non-native species.
    No planting high densities of evergreen/coniferous species in areas where they naturally persist in low abundances. No planting species that may have negative effects in the ecosystem.
    In tropical forest: No conversion of deciduous dominated forest into an evergreen dominated forest.
    In temperate forest: No conversion of broadleaved forest into coniferous forest.
    For restoration projects:
    Only native species (naturalized species are allowed)

    For agroforestry projects:
    Maximum 50% of non-native species.
    List of species planted
    Field visits and, where applicable, verify no visual dominance of any species in the field

    Where are plants sourced from?
    3.4 Origin of seeds and seed collection sitesFor restoration projects:
    80% seeds collected within 250km radius

    For agroforestry projects:
    Seeds from native species collected following appendix 1 of SER guidelines. Seeds from non-native species bought from a certified/reliable/known source
    Seeds origin collection following appendix 1 of SER guidelines and ensuring genetic diversity.

    TOP: Native seeds collected by, or bought to community

    Field and nursery visits

    Is it necessary to plant? If yes, how are you going to plant?
    4.1 Does the system require tree planting? No afforestation or planting in areas that have rapid rates of natural regeneration.SELF-REPORTED
    TreeMapper – pictures of plants.

    Site visits

    4.2 Density – number of trees per ha - % of each species

    Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR) is allowed.
    Max. 10,000 trees /ha (high density only permissible if survival rates are low)

    4.3 Height / age of plants~ 30cm height / only planting non-damaged seedlings (lignified stem, good root development, no weeds in the pots, no disease damage, no nutrient deficiency)

    When are you going to plant?
    4.4 Months / SeasonClearly defined planting season (according to the ecosystem)PLAUSIBILITY CHECK

    How do you prepare planting sites?
    4.5 Method of clearingNO fire, only allowed in ecosystems adapted to frequent fires. If fire is used, have a clear protocol.PLAUSIBILITY CHECK
    Site visits
    4.6 Removal of trees/ Width of stems removedNo cutting of existing trees (>10cm DBH), unless pruning or invasive/non-native for improving ecosystem healthPLAUSIBILITY CHECK
    Site visits

    Do you care for trees after planting? / Maintenance of trees
    5.1 What? How long?
    Clearing / watering (if necessary)
    Do Clearing / provide after care or general maintenance of the areas for at
    least 2 years according to the needs
    Do Clearing / provide after care or general maintenance of the areas for at least 3 years according to the needsPLAUSIBILITY CHECK

    Site visits

    General ecosystem health questions
    5.2 Invasive species (if already present in the ecosystem)For areas where work has been done for less than 5 years: less than 70% of the
    area covered by invasive species and projects actively working on depleting it.

    For areas where work has been done for 5 years or more: Less than 50% OR no clear visual dominance

    *Planting of invasive species in agroforestry systems is not allowed. If there is an already present invasive species useful for the community, the project can maintain it (but not plant more) if special measures to avoid spreading or damages to the ecosystem are being applied.
    For areas where work has been done for less than 5 years: less than 50% or no clear visual dominance.

    For areas where work has been done for 5 years or more: less than 25%, whenever possible, or present just in small patches/almost eradicated or not representing a threat to the ecosystem.
    Site visits
    random visit of at least 5 points

    5.3 Annual reportsPublish annual statistics on:
    - Area restored, including shapefile (GeoJson or KML of the working area)
    - Number of trees planted
    - Species planted and composition
    - Survival rate (after year 3)

    Note: this standard can be fulfilled using the free TreeMapper tool, but other tools are accepted
    Publish annual statistics, including data collection methodology, on:
    - Vegetation cover
    - Community engagement,
    TreeMapper or annual reports
    Provide an annual confirmation of the use of fundsVERIFIED
    Annual confirmation
    (Applicable only for projects that intend to do so)

    Harvesting techniques
    6.1 Timber productsFor restoration projects:
    Max. 10% of total trees every 30 years (*or following documented best forestry practices) and, if for profit, only for community profits or to continue with restoration activities.

    For agroforestry projects:
    Max. 30% of total trees after 15 years (*or following documented best forestry practices). If for profit, only for community profits, as a sustainable income source or to continue with restoration activities.
    For restoration projects:
    No harvesting of timber products (*or following documented best forestry practices). Only maintenance activities

    For agroforestry projects:
    Max. 10% of total trees after 20 years (*or following documented best forestry practices). If for profit, only for community profits, as a sustainable income source or to continue with restoration activities.

    6.2 Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP)

    NTFP harvesting following guidelines

    All uses must follow:
    sustainable forest management

    Certifications on sustainable management

    How long are planted trees secure?
    7.1 Land tenureEnsure that some action for protection of the trees is in place.Protection of trees for 30-50y or more (written or communally agreed)VERIFIED
    Copy of land tenure contract or Letter of Intent (a template can be provided)

    Are trees secured (if necessary)?
    7.2 Tree protection (animal threats, like cattle)If the area requires protection from animal threats, 50% of areas are protected.If the area requires protection from animal threats, 100% of areas are protected.VERIFIED
    Site visits

    Social & Financial Standards

    No.IssueCriteriaMain StandardTop StandardVerification Category & Metric

    How does the project affect the community?
    8.1 Respect of cultural and daily livelihoodsNo significant harm to any cultural or subsistence requirements of the community due to project implementation.PLAUSIBILITY CHECK
    Questionnaire / site visits
    Minimum needs for security protection of the area (human threats)

    Who is involved in project implementation?
    9.1 Community involvementCommunity involved in the project and the decision making process.Local community members have leadership roles in the restoration design and decision making process.SELF-REPORTED

    Agreement / Code of Ethics
    9.2 # Jobs created / % of local people workingAt least 30% of employees are local (locals defined as people that can travel daily from their homes to work)At least 60% of employees are local
    At least 30% of leadership roles are filled by community members

    Local / Economic benefits
    9.3 Salary

    Minimum wages above country poverty line

    Agreement / Code of Ethics
    9.4 Worker rights / benefits Training / other servicesHealthcare, social security provided
    9.5 Funding allocation between groups overseeing/implementing the project
    Funds equally allocated between the projects groups
    At least 70% of funds for implementing group

    Economic viability of the project
    10. 1 Project funding


    Business model / selling products
    Economic plan / Budget needed for 1 year and planned funding sources (more than one)

    Tree price calculation must be included
    Budget needed for 2 years or more, and planned funding sourcesVERIFIED
    Budget plan

    Project assurance
    10.2 Economical assurance/ exit strategyClear actions / process in case the NGO
    runs out of funding / shuts down
    11REPORTING11.1 Financial reportUpload preliminary financial reports 12 months and final reports 24 months after fiscal year overVERIFIED
    Financial reports

    What is the long-term funding plan for maintenance and monitoring?
    11.2 Maintenance and monitoring funding planUpload funding plan or statement securing maintenance and monitoring for at least 3 yearsUpload funding plan or statement securing maintenance and monitoring for at least 5 yearsVERIFIED
    Budget plan/Statement

    Earlier Version of the Standards

    Version 1.0, February 2022


    1. Brancalion & Hall (2020): Guidance for successful tree planting initiatives. Journal of Applied Ecology. 57(12). 2349-2361.  
    2.  Jackson et al. (2005): Trading Water for Carbon with Biological Carbon Sequestration. Science. 310(5756). 1944-1947. DOI: 10.1126/science.1119282
    3.  Kirschbaum et al. (2011): Implications of albedo changes following afforestation on the benefits of forests as carbon sinks. Biogeosciences. 8. 3687–3696,   
    4.  Liu et al. (2018): Mixed-species versus monocultures in plantation forestry: Development, benefits, ecosystem services and perspectives for the future. Global Ecology and Conservation 15. 
    5.  Moonlight PW, Banda-R K, Philips OL, et al. (2021): Expanding tropical forest monitoring into Dry Forests: The DRYFLOR protocol for permanent plots. Plants, People, Planet. 2021;3: 295-300. 
    6.  FAO (2010): Planted forests in sustainable forest management - a statement of principles. 
    7.  Jalonen et al (2018): Guidelines for Equitable and Sustainable Non-Timber Forest Product Management. Bioversity International, Rome. 
    8.  Di Sacco et al. (2021): Ten golden rules for reforestation to optimize carbon sequestration, biodiversity recovery and livelihood benefits. Global Change Biology 27(7). 1328-1348.
    9.  Global Change Data Lab (2021): National poverty line 

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