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
    Professor
    Universidad Autónoma del Carmen
  • 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
    Project Manager
    Plant-for-Ethiopia
  • Biological Standards

    PROJECT STAGE
    QUESTIONS TO SOLVE
    WHAT TO MEASURE?
    MINIMUM STANDARD
    TOP STANDARD
    VERIFICATION CATEGORY METRICS
    Where is the project located? – What are the current conditions? – Have potential unintended negative consequences of reforestation been considered?
    1. Original ecosystem type
    2. Vegetation present in the area:
      a. grass/ bare ground
      b. some vegetation/ shrub
      c. established vegetation (native or invasive)
    3. Unintended negative consequences
    4. Project context
    1. No conversion of non-forest ecosystems to forest
    2. No cutting of native forest (Cutting of invasive/ non-native species is allowed to improve ecosystem health)
    3. 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,; planting high densities of evergreen trees where ecosystems are deciduous dominated).
    4. Project is developing opportunities to contribute to regional conservation goals 
    Projects from high endangered ecosystems or working with endangered species

    VERIFIED
    Satellite imagery of the area before and after starting the project.

    PLAUSIBILITY CHECK
    If the project has not started, pictures taken from the field.

    SELF-REPORTED
    Evaluation of vegetation present at site before the project starts (i.e., List of plant species present, indicating if native, non-native or invasive, general description of site and surrounding landscape).

    Do you have a project plan? / Type of project
    Existence of a plan with clear objectives
    The project has clear goals, objectives and the work is aligned with them.
    Existence of a written plan

    VERIFIED 
    Copy of the plan or interview with the project leaders

    1. PLANNING A PROJECT ¹
    2. SOURCING TREES
    What are you going to plant?

    Selection of species planted

    Number of species (% of each species)

    If productive objectives (i.e., agroforestry) - % of introduced species)

    Not planting any invasive species to the region

    For restoration projects: 

    • Temperate: 2 species minimum
    • Tropical:8 species minimum
    • Mangroves: 1 species minimum
    • No species should represent more than 50% of total. * In systems where naturally one species dominates this point doesn’t apply.

    For agroforestry projects: 

    • Temperate: 2 species minimum
    • Tropical : 5 species minimum. If the area is smaller than 1ha at least 3 species planted.
    • No species should represent more than 60%

    For restoration projects: 

    Maximum 10% of non-native species

    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:

    • Temperate: more than 4 species
    • Tropical: more than 15 species.
    • Mangroves: more than 2 species
    • Species planted in similar quantities, except in systems where one or two species naturally dominate. 

    For agroforestry projects:

    • Temperate: more than 2 species 
    • Tropical: more than 8 species. If the area is smaller than 1h at least 5 species planted. 
    • No species should represent more than 40%

    For restoration projects:

    Only native species
    (naturalized species are allowed)

    For agroforestry projects: 

    Maximum 50% of non-native species.

    VERIFIED
    List of species planted 

    VERIFIED
    Field visits and, where applicable, verify no visual dominance of any species in the field

    Where are plants sourced from?
    Origin of seeds and seed collection sites

    For restoration projects: 

    Minimum 80% of seeds from  native species 

    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

    Native seeds collected by, or bought to community members. 

    For restoration: 

    Seeds origin collection following appendix 1 of SER guidelines and ensuring genetic diversity.

    SELF-REPORTED

    TreeMapper (ID of species)
    Field and nursery  visits 

    3. PLANTING

    Is it necessary to plant? If yes, how are you going to plant?
    1. Does the system require tree planting? 
    2. Density – number of trees per ha - % of each species
    3. Height / age of plants
    1. No afforestation or planting in areas that have rapid rates of natural regeneration. Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR) is allowed.
    2. Max. 10,000 trees /ha (high density only permissible if survival rates are low)
    3. ~ 30cm height / 3 months in nursery
      1. Max. 10,000 (tree species planted in mixtures) 
      2. ~ 30cm height / 6 months in nursery

      SELF-REPORTED

      1. TreeMapper – pictures of plants.
      2. Site visits
      How do you prepare planting sites?
      When are you going to plant?
      Months / Season
      Clearly defined planting season (according to the ecosystem)

      PLAUSIBILITY CHECK 
      Questionnaire

      How do you prepare planting sites?
      1. Method of clearing
      2. Removal of trees

      Width of stems removed

      1. Fire, only allowed If the system is fire adapted. If using fire, have a clear protocol.
      2. No cutting existing trees (unless invasive)
      No cutting any stem >10cm DBH, unless invasive

      PLAUSIBILITY CHECK
      Site visits

      4. AFTER PLANTING

      Do you care for trees after planting? / Maintenance of trees
      What? How long? Clearing / watering (if necessary)
      Clearing / after care for at least 2 years
      Clearing / after care for at least 3 years

      PLAUSIBILITY CHECK

      1. Questionnaire
      2. Site visits
      5. MONITORING
      General ecosystem health questions
      Invasive/exotic species (if present in the ecosystem)

      For areas where work has been done for less than 5 years: less than 70% of the area 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.

      VERIFIED

      Site visits - random visit of at least 5 points

      Reporting questions
      TreeMapper

      All trees planted by the project, not just the ones funded through donation through our site, must be registered with TreeMapper.

      Max. 12 months delay in updating after planting.

      All trees donated to the project, not just the ones funded through a donation through our site, must be registered with TreeMapper or provide the specific data. 

      Max. 8 months delay in registering newly planted trees.

      VERIFIED 
      TreeMapper

      Reviews
      On-site visits
      Full access on-site to reviewers and observers
      Full access on-site to reviewers and observers

      VERIFIED 
      Site visits

      6. HARVESTING
      Harvesting techniques

      Plant uses:

      • timber products
      • non-timber forest products (NTFP)

      For 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: 

      Timber products: 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.

      NTFP harvesting following guidelines

      All uses must follow: 

      • sustainable forest management

      For restoration projects: 

      No harvesting of timber products (*or following documented best forestry practices). 

      Only maintenance activities

      For agroforestry projects: 

      Timber products: 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. 

      Top:

      Certifications on sustainable management

      SELF-REPORTED 
      Questionnaire

      7. CONSERVATION ASSURANCE
      How long are planted trees secure?
      Land tenure
      Protection of trees for at least 30 years (written or communally agreed)
      Protection of trees for at least 50 years (written or communally agreed)

      VERIFIED 
      Copy of land tenure contract or Letter of Intent (a template can be provided)

      Are trees secured (if necessary)?
      Tree protection (animal threats, like cattle)
      If area requires protection from animal threats, at least 50% of areas are protected.
      If area requires protection from animal threats, at least 80% of areas protected.

      VERIFIED 
      Site visits

      Social & Economical Standards

      PROJECT STAGE
      QUESTIONS TO SOLVE
      WHAT TO MEASURE?
      MINIMUM STANDARD
      TOP STANDARD
      VERIFICATION CATEGORY METRICS
      What is the original problem / is the cause of degradation solved?
      Problem management / resolution
      Degradation problem controlled/removed of project area
      Degradation problem solved in the community

      PLAUSIBILITY CHECK 
      Questionnaire

      Who is implementing the project?
      Type of organization

      Registered as:

      • Non-profit organization
      • Cooperative
      • Community groups organization
      • Other

      VERIFIED 
      Registration certificate / registration number

      1. ORIGIN /PLANNING THE PROJECT
      Land tenure

      Agreement on land tenure

      If buying; payment for land

      Land tenure is clearly defined and without problems/conflicts.

      Fair payment for the land

      Community tenure

      VERIFIED
      Copy of land tenure contract / Agreement

      SELF REPORTED
      Agreement / Code of Ethics

      Does the community support the project?
      Community approval
      Absence of conflicts with local community and consultation/workshops before/during project implementation
      Community initiated the project.

      SELF-REPORTED 
      Questionnaire

      How does the project affect the community?
      Respect for cultural and daily livelihoods
      No significant affects to any cultural or subsistence requirements of the community

      PLAUSIBILITY CHECK 
      Questionnaire / site visits
      Minimum needs for security protection of the area (human threats)

      2. WORKING
      Who is involved in project implementation?
      Community involvement

      Working with community, women, and indigenous groups (if applicable). 

      Local community members have leadership roles in the restoration design and decision making process.

      Community meaningfully involved in decision making process

      SELF-REPORTED 
      Questionnaire
      Agreement / Code of Ethics

      # Jobs created / % of local people working
      At 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

      At least 60% of local employees

      SELF-REPORTED 
      Questionnaire

      Local / Economic benefits
      1. Salary
      2. Worker rights / benefits Training / other services
      3. Funding allocation between groups overseeing/implementing the project
      1. Minimum wages above country poverty line
      2. Healthcare, social security provided
      3. Funds equally allocated between the projects groups
      At least 70% of funds for implementing group

      SELF-REPORTED 
      Agreement / Code of Ethics

      3. ORGANIZATION STRUCTURE

      Economic viability of the project

      Project funding

      • Government
      • Donations
      • 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 sources

      VERIFIED 
      Budget Plan

      Project assurance
      Economical assurance
      Clear actions / process in case the NGO runs out of funding / shuts down
      4. REPORTING
      Financial report
      Upload preliminary financial reports 12 months and final reports 24 months after fiscal year over

      VERIFIED 
      Financial reports

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

      These standards were developed based on scientific works and international guidelines (SER, IUCN, UN, FAO).

      If you don’t meet all the requirements but you have good reasons and want to be part of the platform, feel free to reach out to us and share your project details. We will evaluate these and determine if certain exceptions to certain standards can be made depending on the project objectives, approach, and community benefits.

      To continuously improve our standards, they are reviewed at least once a year or whenever a major change is needed due to new scientific insights or evidence. Any adjustments to the standards have to be approved by the Restoration Project Review Board. For new projects joining the platform, the new standards are effective immediately. For all projects already on the platform, their review status stays valid for at least two years. After announcing changes to the standards, all projects already on the platform get six months to adjust to the new standards. In case they are up for a review after those six months (i.e. the two years that a review stays valid at least are over), they will be reviewed according to the new standards.

      We believe collaboration is the best way to achieve a goal, so we invite you to review our standards. In case you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions, please share them with Samantha Davalos, samantha.davalos@plant-for-the-planet.org

      We are happy to hear from you.

      Citations

      1. Brancalion & Hall (2020): Guidance for successful tree planting initiatives. Journal of Applied Ecology. 57(12). 2349-2361. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13725  
      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, https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-8-3687-2011   
      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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2018.e00419 
      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. https://doi.org/10.1002/ppp3.10112 
      6.  FAO (2010): Planted forests in sustainable forest management - a statement of principles. https://www.fao.org/3/al248e/al248e00.pdf 
      7.  Jalonen et al (2018): Guidelines for Equitable and Sustainable Non-Timber Forest Product Management. Bioversity International, Rome. https://www.bioversityinternational.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Guidelines_Marlene_2018.pdf 
      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. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15498
      9.  Global Change Data Lab (2021): National poverty line https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/national-poverty-lines-vs-gdp-per-capita?tab=table 

      Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation | Standards for Restoration Projects |  samantha.davalos@plant-for-the-planet.org