A paper published recently has presented ‘ten golden rules’ which the authors say should be followed to help deliver sustainable reforestation around the world.

The paper authored by Di Sacco et al. in Global Change Biology (full citation below) sets out to summarise a simple set of priorities to provide the urgent solutions required to help combat global climate change. The title table suggests that the paper focusses on reforestation, but to me much of its content applied as much to afforestation as reforestation. I like that the authors describe how tree planting that is poorly planned and executed might actually increase CO2 emissions and have long‐term and negative impacts on biodiversity, landscapes and livelihoods. What I like most about the paper, above all else, is that it will remind conservationists that such schemes and ambitions must ‘make it pay’ (Rule 10). It reminds me of a common adage used in British forestry—not the right tree in the right place for the right reason (which is always helpful)—but that a tree that pays is a tree that stays. Any of us with an environmental mission forget the economic pillar of sustainability at our peril (the other two pillars being society and environment). After all, I’ve never seen a two-legged stool which works effectively.

The ten golden rules of reforestation are:

  1. Protect existing forest first
  2. Work together
  3. Aim to maximise biodiversity recovery to meet multiple goals
  4. Select appropriate areas for reforestation
  5. Use natural regeneration wherever possible
  6. Plant species to maximise biodiversity
  7. Use resilient plant material
  8. Plan ahead for infrastructure
  9. Learn by doing
  10. Make it pay
The Ten Golden Rules for Reforestation, from Di Sacco et al. 2021

The Ten Golden Rules for Reforestation, from Di Sacco et al. 2021


Di Sacco, A., Hardwick, K.A., Blakesley, D., Brancalion, P.H.S., Breman, E., Cecilio Rebola, L., Chomba, S., Dixon, K., Elliott, S., Ruyonga, G., Shaw, K., Smith, P., Smith, R.J. and Antonelli, A. (2021), Ten golden rules for reforestation to optimize carbon sequestration, biodiversity recovery and livelihood benefits. Global Change Biology. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15498

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