Forest restoration and nature-based climate solutions frequently fail because they are not grounded in social science

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Online seminar followed by Q&A – all welcome. NB – all times given in UK time
Joint event with OCTF and Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development

A wide variety of global initiatives now advocate for increasing carbon storage through changing land management. The focus of these initiatives is often on planting trees or otherwise restoring forests. In this talk, Forrest will draw on evidence from his recent research in India, as well as associated work around the world, to show that these initiatives often fail because they are not grounded in a social scientific understanding of the dynamics of land systems. Using a combination of remote sensing, participatory mapping, reviewing government records, and an extensive household survey, he found that decades of tree planting initiatives in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh produced little meaningful change in land cover. This was the result of failing to understand and address the underlying human dynamics that determine land cover change. New initiatives being proposed in India follow the same pattern and are thus likely to produce similarly disappointing results. While these findings lead to pessimism about the prospects for global nature based climate solutions, they also point towards the potential for success when initiatives ground their work in understanding & collaborating with local people.

Forrest Fleischman is an associate professor of environment & natural resource policy at the University of Minnesota department of forest resources. His research focuses on the interaction of political advocacy, science, and government in driving landscape change, with geographic focuses on South Asia and North and Central America. His work has been published in Nature, Science, Nature Sustainability, World Development, Global Environmental Change, Public Administration Review, and the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, and his work has been supported by the US National Science Foundation, US Department of Agriculture, NASA, and the Swedish Research Council and FORMAS.