Convergence and divergence in science and practice of urban and rural forest restoration

Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 2023 Oct 9. doi: 10.1111/brv.13022. Online ahead of print.


Forest restoration has never been higher on policymakers' agendas. Complex and multi-dimensional arrangements across the urban-rural continuum challenge restorationists and require integrative approaches to strengthen environmental protection and increase restoration outcomes. It remains unclear if urban and rural forest restoration are moving towards or away from each other in practice and research, and whether comparing research outcomes can help stakeholders to gain a clearer understanding of the interconnectedness between the two fields. This study aims to identify the challenges and opportunities for enhancing forest restoration in both urban and rural systems by reviewing the scientific evidence, engaging with key stakeholders and using an urban-rural forest restoration framework. Using the Society for Ecological Restoration's International Principles as discussion topics, we highlight aspects of convergence and divergence between the two fields to broaden our understanding of forest restoration and promote integrative management approaches to address future forest conditions. Our findings reveal that urban and rural forest restoration have convergent and divergent aspects. We emphasise the importance of tailoring goals and objectives to specific contexts and the need to design different institutions and incentives based on the social and ecological needs and goals of stakeholders in different regions. Additionally, we discuss the challenges of achieving high levels of ecological restoration and the need to go beyond traditional ecology to plan, implement, monitor, and adaptively manage restored forests. We suggest that rivers and watersheds could serve as a common ground linking rural and urban landscapes and that forest restoration could interact with other environmental protection measures. We note the potential for expanding the creative vision associated with increasing tree-containing environments in cities to generate more diverse and resilient forest restoration outcomes in rural settings. This study underscores the value of integrative management approaches in addressing future forest conditions across the urban-rural continuum. Our framework provides valuable insights for policymakers, researchers, and decision-makers to advance the field of forest restoration and address the challenges of restoration across the urban-rural continuum. The rural-urban interface serves as a convergence point for forest restoration, and both urban and rural fields can benefit from each other's expertise.

Keywords: SER principles; evidence synthesis; evidence-based research; influence synthesis; narrative synthesis; research outcomes; restoration ecology; rural forest restoration; urban forest restoration; urban-rural continuum.