Ecological indicators for assessing ecological success of forest restoration: a world review

Paula Gatica-Saavedra, Cristian Echeverría, Cara R. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Restoration is increasingly being used to reverse degradation and destruction of forest ecosystems. With increasing investment in restoration, there is an urgent need to develop effective programs to assess treatment efficacy and effects. We conducted a global review of forest restoration assessments, in order to identify geographic trends in the locations where assessments have been implemented and the specific ecological attributes (ecosystem composition, structure, and function) and indicators being used to measure effects. We found that the number of forest restoration assessments varied by region and was not related to degree of degradation or restoration need. Some regions, like Africa, which have experienced high rates of forest loss and degradation, had few assessments. The majority (43%) of assessments included indicators for only two of three key ecological attributes (composition-structure or composition-function) and assessments on average used fewer than three indicators per attribute. The most commonly employed indicators for composition were richness and abundance of plant species and for structure were height and diameter of trees, variables that are generally relatively easy to measure. The use of functional indicators has been increasing over time and they are now more commonly used than structural indicators. The most common functional indicators were soil functions. Most investigators evaluated treatment effects for 6–10 years after implementation. Our findings related to gaps in analysis of ecological indicators can serve as a guide for developing monitoring and assessment protocols for current global forest restoration initiatives by 2020–2030.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)850-857
Number of pages8
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2017


This research was conducted with the financial support of National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT), which provided a doctoral scholarship to P.G.-S. In addition, C.R.N. was supported through a United States Department of State Fulbright Scholarship.

FundersFunder number
Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica


    • community composition
    • community structure
    • ecosystem functions
    • evaluation
    • monitoring
    • verification


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