10 Rules For Durable Solutions

Nature For Justice is focused on vulnerable populations impacted by the climate crisis and we are guided by science.  A recent excellent publication by Sacco, Hardwick et al entitled “Ten Golden Rules for reforestation to optimize carbon sequestration, biodiversity recovery and livelihoods benefits” (Link)  succinctly summarizes the rules.  Here’s our take on the ORDER of the rules and the rationale (and thanks to the authors!).

Our bottom line: Start with people and design systemic solutions that are durable from economic, social, and natural perspectives. The systemic solutions need to have elements that can be adapted as the climate continues to change. Ultimately, to maximize impacts, government policy must incentivize and reinforce decision making at the local level.

Papua New Guinea
Reordered Rules with Sacco/Hardwick et al. Explanation1

1. Put local people at the heart of tree-planting projects

Studies show that getting local communities on board is key to the success of tree-planting projects. It is often local people who have most to gain from looking after the forest in the future.

Nature For Justice’s Rationale for the Order of the Rules
We could not agree more with the authors’ research. Local commitment is essential to durability.

2. Protect existing forests first

Keeping forests in their original state is always preferable; undamaged old forests soak up carbon better and are more resilient to fire, storm and droughts. “Whenever there’s a choice, we stress that halting deforestation and protecting remaining forests must be a priority,” said Prof Alexandre Antonelli, director of science at RGB Kew.

Natural climate solutions are based on the three pillars of forest protection, improved landscape management, and restoration. The work of Bronson Griscom and others have laid this out.

3. Make it pay

The sustainability of tree re-planting rests on a source of income for all stakeholders, including the poorest.

Interestingly, this was way down the list for the authors, but it is very high for us – people need money to adapt and those new practices need to pay for themselves.

4. Plan ahead

Plan how to source seeds or trees, working with local people.

Learn by doing
Combine scientific knowledge with local knowledge. Ideally, small-scale trials should take place before planting large numbers of trees.

We combine Plan Ahead and Learn By Doing under the heading of Embrace Adaptive Management: plan ahead, measure, evaluate, change, and then repeat.

5. Maximize biodiversity recovery to meet multiple goals

Reforestation should be about several goals, including guarding against climate change, improving conservation and providing economic and cultural benefits.

We think of this within the context of increasing ALL elements of the natural capital stack: biodiversity, carbon, water, and other ecosystem services.

6. Use natural forest regrowth wherever possible

Letting trees grow back naturally can be cheaper and more efficient than planting trees.

Natural regeneration is more effective, leads to a more diverse and well-balanced ecosystem, and is cheaper per unit area.

7. Select the right tree species that can maximise biodiversity

Where tree planting is needed, picking the right trees is crucial. Scientists advise a mixture of tree species naturally found in the local area, including some rare species and trees of economic importance, but avoiding trees that might become invasive.

This and # 6 are obviously very related. This is where consultation with local experts and talking to local communities can help – in no case should decisions be top down but to lay out a rationale for nature-related solutions.

8. Select the right area for reforestation

Plant trees in areas that were historically forested but have become degraded, rather than using other natural habitats such as grasslands or wetlands.

We advocate thinking about the reforestation in the broader context of the landscape. For example, The Global Safety Net https://bit.ly/GSN_Science has laid out important corridors for wildlife, biodiversity, climate etc. Work across multiple communities to ensure that corridors are protected and linked together.

9. Make sure the trees are resilient to adapt to a changing climate

Use tree seeds that are suitable for the local climate and how that might change in the future.

Clearly, this has to be factored into the thinking for biodiversity conservation, natural forest regeneration, species selection, area choice, and resilience to climate change, i.e., think systems.
10. (See 4 above – Combined two of them)

10. Protect gains through government policy

Don’t neglect the importance of advocating for policies that facilitate all of the above. Start local but broader impacts need a reinforcing policy framework.

Nature For Justice’s role is to act as the bridge between communities and those with resources, capabilities, technologies, and interest in promoting durable solutions that promote justice and equity.  Scientific knowledge and expertise must cross the bridge. We can make that happen.

1 “Ten golden rules for reforestation to optimize carbon sequestration, biodiversity recovery and livelihood benefits” Global Change Biology January 25,2021 (Link)


  • Hank Cauley

    An engineer who later got a business degree to achieve social and environmental justice through existing economic structures. He’s started or built many organizations and projects. Hank lives in Falls Church, VA, with his wife and is an avid bee-keeper.

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