Our ability to assess restoration progress continues to be challenged by incomplete data, but based on available information, we estimate that the goal of restoring 150 million hectares of forest by 2020 is not on track.
An analysis of Central America using satellite data reveals that three countries – El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Guatemala – had net increases in tree cover between 2011 and 2018, while three countries – Belize, Honduras, and Nicaragua – had net losses. The results provide an indication of the highly dynamic nature of tree cover, with hundreds of thousands of hectares of trees gained and lost in each country.
Restoration involves many kinds of interventions, which adds complexity to producing data on restoration progress; multiple data sources are needed to capture the variety of restoration approaches.
While satellite data on tree cover gain and loss is used as a proxy for restoration progress, this data cannot identify why that change is happening. For instance, tree cover gained via plantations, abandoned land, or active restoration interventions are often indistinguishable in remotely sensed data.
New restoration pledges have been made by corporate actors, and multiple new initiatives link restoration practitioners with finance. Still, it remains to be seen whether these efforts will enable restoration efforts to scale in time to realize existing global goals.