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.  

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Standards for Restoration Projects 0.9

 Our Restoration Project Standards aim to ensure the high quality of the projects on our platform. We have developed the standards based on scientific evidence and research and a holistic approach. The development of the standards is a dynamic and complex process, in which we strive to reach the best possible version and never stop learning. This is therefore a preliminary version that is subject to adjustments, a version 0.9.

We would love to receive any comment, feedback, or suggestion. Please feel free to write to  anytime. 

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 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 of evergreen species when forests are deciduous dominated. No planting species that may have negative effects in the ecosystem.

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

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. 

    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

    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. 

    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). 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. If your project does not meet one of the set standards for a good reason and believe an exception would be appropriate, please contact us."

    If you don’t meet all the requirements but 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. 

    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 write an e-mail to Plant-for-the-Planet. 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