Pitfalls for the sustainability of forest transitions: evidence from Southeast Asia

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Christian A Kull
  • Jennifer Bartmess
  • Wolfram Dressler
  • Simone Gingrich
  • Maciej Grodzicki
  • Katarzyna Jasikowska
  • Zofia Łapniewska
  • Stephanie Mansourian
  • Van Thi Hai Nguyen
  • Persson, Joel Gustav
  • Melanie Pichler
  • Herimino Manoa Rajaonarivelo
  • Amélie Robert
  • Thang Nam Tran
  • Kevin Woods
The concept of a forest transition – a regional shift from deforestation to forest recovery – tends to equate forest area expansion with sustainability, assuming that more forest is good for people and the environment. To promote debate and more just and ecologically sustainable outcomes during this period of intense focus on forests (such as the United Nations’ Decade on Ecological Restoration, the Trillion Trees initiative and at the United Nations’ Climate Change Conferences), we synthesize recent nuanced and integrated research to inform forest management and restoration in the future. Our results reveal nine pitfalls to assuming forest transitions and sustainability are automatically linked. The pitfalls are as follows: (1) fixating on forest quantity instead of quality; (2) masking local diversity with large-scale trends; (3) expecting U-shaped temporal trends of forest change; (4) failing to account for irreversibility; (5) framing categories and concepts as universal/neutral; (6) diverting attention from the simplification of forestlands into single-purpose conservation forests or intensive production lands; (7) neglecting social power transitions and dispossessions; (8) neglecting productivism as the hidden driving force; and (9) ignoring local agency and sentiments. We develop and illustrate these pitfalls with local- and national-level evidence from Southeast Asia and outline forward-looking recommendations for research and policy to address them. Forest transition research that neglects these pitfalls risks legitimizing unsustainable and unjust policies and programmes of forest restoration or tree planting.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Conservation
Number of pages11
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Apr 2024

ID: 390404355