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).

We would love to receive any comments, feedback, or suggestion.

Please feel free to write to anytime. 


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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.

Contact us at reviewboard@plant-for-the-planet.org

  • Our Corporate Partnerships Team
    Dr. Pilar Angelica Gómez Ruiz
    Professor
    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

    AR Standards Version 1.2, Jul 2024

    Requirements

    Projects must meet at least 27 of the 32 main standards (including all mandatory standards- marked in beige) 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

    The Core Standards are the same for all restoration project types.

    No.IssueCriteriaMain StandardTop StandardVerification Category & Metric
    A1PLANNING A PROJECT ¹

    Do you have a project plan? / Type of project
    A1.1 Existence of a project with clear objectives adapted to the social, economic and environmental context of landscape.The project is developed according to the local context (social and biological) and site conditions. It has a written plan with clear goals, objectives and the work is aligned with them.Holistic land use planning and spatial prioritization approach to ensure native forest continue to regrow and not compromising other productive activitiesVERIFIED
    Copy of the plan, questionnaire or interview with the project leaders
    What is the original problem / is the cause of degradation solved?
    A1.2 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
    Questionnaire
    Who is implementing the project?A1.3 Type of organizationRegistered as:
    Non-profit organization

    Cooperative

    Community groups organization

    Other
    VERIFIED
    Registration certificate / registration number


    Land tenure
    A1.4 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.
    VERIFIED
    Copy of land tenure contract / Agreement / Letter of Intention


    Does the community support the project?
    A1.5 Community approvalNo current conflict between the community and the project implementationCommunity initiated the project.SELF-REPORTED
    Questionnaire
    IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROJECT
    Who is involved in project implementation?
    A1.6 Community Working with community, women, and indigenous groups (if applicable). At least 1/3 of women working in the project

    Working with a diverse selection of community members in the project, for ex. women, youth, etc. SELF-REPORTED
    Questionnaire

    Agreement / Code of Ethics
    A1.7 Community involvement ²Community is involved in the implementation of the project.Community has been involved since the planning phase of the project.SELF-REPORTED
    Questionnaire
    MONITORING

    Reviews
    A1.8 On-site visitsFull access on-site to reviewers and observersVERIFIED
    Site visits

    Biological Standards

    No.IssueCriteriaMain StandardTop StandardVerification Category & Metric
    B2PLANNING A PROJECT

    Where is the project located? – What are the current conditions? – Have potential unintended negative consequences of reforestation been considered?
    B2.1 Original ecosystem typeNo 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
    B2.2 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)
    VERIFIED
    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).
    B2.3 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 ³,; no planting exclusively evergreen trees where ecosystems are deciduous dominated).
    Planting according to the natural original composition.



    B2.4 Project context

















    Project is developing opportunities
    to contribute to
    regional conservation goals
    SELF-REPORTED
    Questionnaire
    B3SOURCING TREES

    What are you going to plant?
    B3.1 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
    B3.2 Number of species plantedTemperate: 2 species
    Tropical:8 species
    Mangroves: 1 species

    Temperate: 4 species
    Tropical: 15 species.
    Mangroves: 2 species

    VERIFIED
    List of species planted, percentages and field visits
    TreeMapper
    B3.3 % of each speciesNo species should represent more than 40% of total. * In systems where naturally one species dominates this point doesn’t apply.






    B3.4 % of non-native speciesMaximum 30% of non-native species with a justification for their use

    Only native species (naturalized species are allowed)

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


    Where are plants sourced from?
    B3.5 Origin of seeds and seed collection sites80% seeds collected within 250km radius

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

    TOP: Native seeds collected by, or bought to community
    members.
    PLAUSABILITY CHECK
    Questionnaire

    Field and nursery visits
    B4PLANTING

    Is it necessary to plant? If yes, how are you going to plant?
    B4.1 Does the system require tree planting? No afforestation or planting in areas that have rapid rates of natural regeneration.
    Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR) is allowed.
    PLAUSABILITY CHECK
    Questionnaire and site visits


    B4.2 Density – number of trees per ha - % of each species



    Max. 10,000 trees /ha (high density only permissible if survival rates are low)

    VERIFIED
    TreeMapper – pictures of plants.

    Site visits
    B4.3 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)PLAUSIBILITY CHECK
    Questionnaire and site visits


    When are you going to plant?
    B4.4 Months / SeasonClearly defined planting season (according to the ecosystem)PLAUSIBILITY CHECK
    Questionnaire


    How do you prepare planting sites?
    B4.5 Method of clearingNO fire, only allowed in ecosystems adapted to frequent fires. If fire is used, have a clear protocol.PLAUSIBILITY CHECK
    Site visits
    B4.6 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
    B5AFTER PLANTING/MONITORING

    Do you care for trees after planting? / Maintenance of trees
    B5.1 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
    Questionnaire

    Site visits


    General ecosystem health questions
    B5.2 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.
    VERIFIED
    Site visits
    random visit of at least 5 points


    Reporting
    B5.3 Annual reportsPublish annual statistics on:
    - Area restored, including shapefile (GeoJson or KML of the working area)
    - Number of trees planted
    - Species planted
    - Species composition
    - Survival rate (after year 3)
    Note: this standard can be fulfilled using the free TreeMapper tool, but other tools are accepted

    - Provide an annual confirmation of the use of funds
    Publish annual statistics, including data collection methodology, on:
    - Vegetation cover
    - Community engagement
    - Fauna monitoring or other indicators
    VERIFIED
    TreeMapper or annual reports
    Annual confirmation
    B6HARVESTING
    (Applicable only for projects that intend to do so)

    Harvesting techniques
    B6.1 Timber productsMax. 10% of total trees every 30 years (*or following documented best forestry practices)⁹ and, if for profit, only for community profits or to continue with restoration activities.

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

    SELF-REPORTED
    Questionnaire


    B6.2 Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP)


    NTFP harvesting following sustainable forest management guidelines
    SELF-REPORTED
    Questionnaire
    B7CONSERVATION ASSURANCE

    How long are planted trees secure?
    B7.1 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)?
    B7.2 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
    B8PLANNING THE PROJECT

    How does the project affect the community?
    B8.1 Respect of cultural and daily livelihoodsNo significant affects to livelihood, or any cultural or subsistence requirements of the community due to project implementationPLAUSIBILITY CHECK
    Questionnaire / site visits
    Minimum needs for security protection of the area (human threats)
    B9IMPLEMENTING THE PROJECT

    Who is involved in project implementation?
    B9.1 Community involvementDirect benefits to the community that improve their livelihood (social and economically)Some local people have leadership roles or are involved in the decision making process.SELF-REPORTED
    Questionnaire

    Agreement / Code of Ethics
    B9.2 # Jobs created / % of local people workingAt least 40% of employees/project contributors 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
    SELF-REPORTED
    Questionnaire

    Local / Economic benefits
    B9.3 Salary¹⁰Minimum wages above country poverty lineSELF-REPORTED
    Agreement / Code of Ethics
    B9.4 Worker rights / benefits Training / other servicesHealthcare, social security provided based on country situations
    B9.5 Funding allocation between groups overseeing/implementing the project
    Funds equally allocated between the projects groups
    At least 70% of funds for implementing group
    B10ORGANIZATION STRUCTURE

    Economic viability of the project
    B10. 1 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 sourcesVERIFIED
    Budget plan


    Project assurance
    B10.2 Economical assurance/ exit strategyClear actions / process in case the NGO
    runs out of funding / shuts down
    SELF-REPORTED
    Questionnaire
    B11REPORTINGB11.1 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?
    B11.2 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 1.1, May 2023

    Version 1.0, February 2022

    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. 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
    3. Jackson et al. (2005): Trading Water for Carbon with Biological Carbon Sequestration. Science. 310(5756). 1944-1947. DOI: 10.1126/science.1119282
    4. 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
    5. 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
    6. Gann GD, McDonald T, Walder B, Aronson J, Nelson CR, Jonson J, Hallett JG, Eisenberg C, Guariguata MR, Liu J, Hua F, Echeverria C, Gonzales, EK, Shaw N, Decleer K, Dixon KW. 2019. International principles and standards for the practice of ecological restoration. Second edition. Restoration Ecology S1-S46
    7. 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
    8. 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
    9. FAO (2010): Planted forests in sustainable forest management - a statement of principles. https://www.fao.org/3/al248e/al248e00.pdf
    10. Global Change Data Lab (2021): National poverty line https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/national-poverty-lines-vs-gdp-per-capita?tab=table
    Code of Conduct

    All projects are required to comply with the Plant-for-the-Planet pp.eco/coc

    Other Risks
    Plant-for-the-Planet reserves the right to reject or later remove projects from the platform for reasons other than the ones stated in these standards. In particular if it believes that there is a considerable risk that the project is not sufficiently effective at restoring or protecting the ecosystem, or risks harm to the local ecosystem, the local community, the environment more broadly or Plant-for-the-Planet’s reputation. Projects may also be rejected, removed or frozen in the case of gross violation of non-mandatory standards.
    Enforcement Action & Reallocation Policy

    What is our Funding Reallocation Policy?

    The Plant-for-the-Planet Platform is committed to fulfilling our donor’s wishes. As far as possible, we want to ensure that donations go to the projects selected by our donors. However, when new information comes to our attention that indicate that a selected project is potentially unable to use the funds responsibly or achieve the promised ends or there is other doubt regarding their integrity, Plant-for-the-Planet reserves the right to reallocate the donations to other projects.

    For that purpose, we have developed a funding reallocation policy. This policy is a framework that outlines the circumstances and principles guiding the redirection of funds allocated to restoration projects. We want to ensure that resources are channeled efficiently to projects that create the greatest positive change.

    When Does a Reallocation Occur?

    A reallocation of funds may occur in specific situations to uphold our commitment to responsible funding and positive impact:

    1. For-Profit Organizations: Funds may be reallocated from projects led by for-profit organizations. This may be the case, when a project incorrectly reports their status or looses its non-profit status.
    2. Non-Compliance and Review: A project might loose donation privileges due to non-compliance with our standards during a review (off-site or on-site). The review board grants a window for improvement; if the project fails another review within the specified timeframe, funds are redirected. During the window, funds that have not yet been paid out to the project are frozen.
    3. Overfunded Projects: Projects receiving more donations than can be implemented effectively within 24 months might see funds reallocated to other initiatives to ensure resources are optimally utilized.
    4. Requests for Reallocation: An organization in charge of a project may request reallocation from one project to another, typically similar in nature.

    The decision to reallocate funds is made with careful consideration, engaging relevant stakeholders and maintaining open communication. Our priority is to ensure your contributions lead to meaningful, lasting change in restoration efforts.

    How Does the Reallocation Process Work?

    Our funding reallocation process is transparent and structured to ensure responsible allocation of resources. The steps include:

    1. Decision: The Project Review Board makes a decision to halt payouts and donation collection for a project. In urgent cases, the lead project reviewer might take the decision but is always subject to review by the review board.
    2. RO Manager Informed: The lead project reviewer notifies the RO Manager about the suspension.
    3. Disabling Donations: The RO Manager disables donations for the affected project.
    4. Project Communication: The project is informed about the suspension and given twelve months to pass a subsequent review.
    5. Review Outcome: If the second review is not passed within twelve months, or if not reapplied for, the reallocation process begins.
      • Project Selection: A similar project in price and ecosystem type, is chosen by the lead project reviewer.
      • Donor Notification: Donors contributing over €50 are informed about the new project reallocation. Donations are reallocated unless they object within a month. €5,000+ donors require active consent.
      • Database Updates: Donations are updated in the database, and history is reflected in backend and frontend systems.

    The process may be adapted depending on the specific circumstances.

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