Forest News #19

This month: news from our network, tapping into big data and tackling gender equality issues in restoration. Enjoy the read!

Disclaimer: we don’t want to advertise for Telus, a telecom from Canada! We just think that this video nicely presents how modern data collection can increase our understanding of Nature and support conservation and restoration efforts. But how can we make use of this “big data” world?

From our network

We start by highlighting our latest Voices interview, featuring two restoration experts with several decades of very valuable experience: Robin Chazdon and Sarah Wilson. Their work and multiple collaborations worldwide unite fundamental science with hands-on approaches. As a result, they view restoration as a holistic process that can serve many purposes, adaptable but driven by evidence-based practices and with a strong concern in balancing human and ecological factors.  Read the interview for a good dose of condensed wisdom!

Robin and Sarah are part of the PARTNERS restoration network, a useful source of know-how mentioned in our previous newsletter. More recently, they’ve started the US-based consultancy Forestoration International, using their expertise to address gaps on the implementation of forest and landscape restoration around the world.

As an example of “bridging the gap” we also want to highlight our latest member project, the Grupo Ambiental Natureza Bela, from Brazil. Their work is focused on the restoration of the Mata Atlântica (“Atlantic forest”), providing technical advisory and support for the work developed by indigenous and traditional community groups in and around national park areas. The Mata Atlântica has suffered immense degradation due to continuous human pressure. Like the Amazon or the Cerrado, this is one of Brazil’s ecological monuments, with unique species and habitats and an important influence on the continent’s climate.

Our other members have continued their work, even amidst the current difficulties. We invite you to explore our member list, vetted by our team to ensure they are real projects, and support them directly. If you like smaller projects, we can also suggest checking the Sugi “Rewilding” app, which lists smaller projects focused on the Miyawaky method to quickly grow dense mini-forests.

Big data, big questions

As the video above shows, having access to data has become a key necessity to understand and manage the world around us, while creating opportunities to do so in new ways. Ideally, some of these generate new insights and democratise our access and the capacity to improve Earth’s situation. However, turning raw data into information that helps us to learn and act is an old challenge.

Today’s world is covered by a technology blanket, which generates rivers of data from countless sources, non-stop, in all sorts of formats (text, video feeds, sensor data from satellites or on the ground, etc.). Making sense of all these unstructured flows of data is the field of “Big Data” science, which requires new tools both for analysis and to assist decision-making processes.

For those involved in ecological conservation and restoration, one of the recurring questions is: how can we help projects make proper use of the latest scientific insights and the huge amounts of data available nowadays?

The Crowther Lab, a research group at the ETH Zurich (Switzerland), is exploring ways to address this gap. Linking to their work on global ecological processes, which we have highlighted before, they are focusing on tools that can translate ecological data from global-scale down to local-level efforts, to be used by the people and organizations engaged in ecosystem conservation and restoration work across the world.

Are you one of those people, either in the field, managing or advising projects? If yes, they want to hear directly from you how ecological insights and analytics could help your work. Get in touch with them and help shape the next generation of tools, by contacting Simeon Max at the Crowther Lab via

The role of culture, gender and socio-economic barriers in conservation, restoration and management.

Talking about other barriers: women are strongly involved in agroforestry activities, but often do not benefit from them due to gender inequalities. We should however be careful with broad generalizations about women’s participation, workload or autonomy. These vary among countries and are affected by social, political and economic factors. The complex gender relations in social structures and decision-making processes are often ignored but policies and interventions must account for these to be successful in a more equitable way.

As an example, women in a region in Peru have actively participated in cocoa intensification programs, and greatly enhanced their household income. Nevertheless, they remained excluded from the decision-making in marketing and sales, missing out on additional gains. Researchers from the World Agroforestry Centre have provided recommendations for building more gender inclusive value chains, including sensitizing technicians to respond to the needs of women interested in cocoa production as well as the use of alternative forms of communication technology.

Similarly, changes in land use that may result from restoration can disadvantage women if their rights to resources, priorities, and contributions of labour and knowledge are overlooked. Researchers from CIFOR and partner institutions have developed a framework on how forest landscape restoration can promote gender equality to equitably distribute benefits and costs for both women and men.

Online Resources

  • Open online course on gender and environment (6-hour, free registration, UN CC:Learn): How can promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment help to deliver better environmental outcomes? And how can you do it? This self-paced online course by the UN Climate Change Learning Partnership (UN CC:Learn), gives you the answers.
  • In Brief: Gender in Forest Landscape Projects – Actions and Indicators. This 4-page PROFOR guidance note for project designers, provide many examples of how gender analysis and actions can contribute in forest landscapes and of how this research is already being applied on the ground.