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Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor in Western Australia

The Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor Project in Western Australia aims to link existing nature reserves by restoring land to create a 200-kilometer corridor. Since 2008, more than 30 million trees and shrubs indigenous to the region have been planted on 14,000 hectares. Over 90 percent of the restored area was cleared in the 1900s and is no longer suitable for traditional agriculture. Pictured above is restoration in progress from one of their earliest plantings. With active management, shrubs and grasses will gradually return to join the overstory trees. Techniques to encourage concurrent seedling and understory growth are being implemented in newer sites, including more dense and close row spacing, curved and contoured row alignment, and full-time removal of sheep.

Credit: Russell Ord

Degraded Land Restoration

Call to action:

Restoring land to health can sequester large amounts of atmospheric carbon in the soil, support millions of people, improve wildlife habitat, and make water more abundant.

Today, 25 percent of all land on earth exists in degraded condition, impacting approximately two billion people, most of whom live in poverty. When land degrades, it loses its natural capacity to provide sustenance for humans and healthy habitats for wildlife. Sources of land degradation include soil erosion, deforestation, agricultural chemicalsmonocropped industrial agriculture, land clearing, mining, invasive species, overgrazing by livestock, and the effects of climate change. If unchecked, degradation can become a permanent condition. Restoration methods can be implemented by individuals, groups, and communities. They can take place on a few acres or hundreds of thousands. Many restoration practices involve regenerative agriculture, including agroforestry, and originate from Indigenous peoples and traditional communities. The United Nations has declared 2021–2030 the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. Restoring degraded land is pivotal to ending the climate crisis and sustainably feeding a growing global population.

Nexus Rating SystemBeta

Solutions to the climate emergency have unique social and environmental effects, positive and negative. To develop a broader understanding of the solutions in Nexus, we rate each solution on five criteria.

Sources for each Nexus are graded numerically (-3 through 10), and the average is displayed as a letter grade. You can explore each source in depth by clicking “view sources” below. For more information, see our Nexus Ratings page.

Degraded Land Restoration

Reference Social Justice Culture Women Biodiversity Carbon
The contributions of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to ecological restoration 7.0 7.0
Remaking lost connections 9.0 9.0 9.0
Gender and Land Restoration 7.0 8.0 10.0
The sweetest thing: The women restoring Borneos rainforest 8.0 8.0 8.0 10.0
Turning the Tide: the gender factor in acheiving land degradation neutrality 7.0 7.0
Blackfoot Restoration Projects 8.0 8.0 9.0
Estimating the Size and Impact of the Ecological Restoration Economy 9.0
Ecological restoration of agricultural land can improve its contribution to economic development 9.0
Female Trailblazers Demonstrate How Restoration Can Revive Ecosystems and Communities 9.0 9.0 8.0
A mountain of health benefits? Impacts of ecological restoration activities on human wellbeing 9.0
Gender and land degradation neutrality: A cross country analysis to support more equitable practices 7.0 7.0
Enhancing synergies between gender equality and biodiversity climate and land degradation neutrality goals 7.0 7.0 9.0
Terrestrial ecosystem restoration increases biodiversity and reduces its variability but not to reference levels: A global meta_analysis 8.0
The Restoration of Degraded Lands by Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples 9.0 9.0 9.0
How Traditional Tribal Perspectives Influence Ecosystem Restoration 9.0 9.0
Traditional ecological knowledge in restoration ecology: a call to listen deeply to engage with and respect Indigenous voices 9.0 9.0
Importance of including cultural practices in ecological restoration 8.0 7.0
Beyond trees: Land restoration to enhance gender equality in Burkina Faso 7.0 7.0
Putting women Front & Centre of Indias push for drought resilience & land restoration 8.0 8.0 8.0 9.0
In Cameroon centring women in landscape restoration 8.0 8.0 8.0
Improving climate and biodiversity outcomes through restoration of forest integrity 10.0
Abandoned Farmland Restoration - Project Drawdown 8.0
UN Convention to Combat Desertification 8.0
The Global Potential for Land Restoration 7.0
8.1 8.2 7.7 9.1 7.7

Action Items


Learn how land becomes degraded and practices that restore it.  Land is considered degraded when its long-term biological health and ecological integrity are damaged or in decline due to human activity. One of the most frequent causes is soil erosion, which begins when vegetation or other protective organic cover is removed, exposing soil to the erosive power of wind and water. Vegetation loss is often due to deforestation, overgrazing, and industrial farming. If not reversed it can lead to severe and permanent degradation. See the Desertification Nexus for more details. Degraded land can damage ecosystem services, which are the essential services that nature provides to humans, such as nutritious food, clean water, pollination of crops, pollution removal, carbon sequestration, and recreational, cultural, and spiritual benefits. See Pollinators Nexus, Wetlands Nexus, Keystone Species Nexus, Peatlands Nexus, Freshwater Nexus, and Tropical Forests Nexus. Practices that restore degraded land include:

Find a volunteer opportunity on a local restoration project. Many conservation groups in the U.S. have ongoing restoration projects, such as the Katy Prairie Conservancy in Texas, the Borderlands Restoration Network in southern Arizona, which has a focus on wild pollinator habitat, and the Clark Fork Coalition in Montana. Native plant societies have volunteer projects, such as the Point Lobos Patrol crew in California and the Native Plant Trust in New England. Here is a sample of international projects:

Join an Ecosystem Restoration Camp. This international organization was cofounded by John Liu and Ashleigh Brown. It has forty camps in twenty-eight countries, where individuals and local residents work together on innovative restoration projects, including rehabilitating degraded forests, restoring wetlands, and participating in regenerative agriculture.

Get trained and/or earn an education certificate in restoration. There are opportunities to deepen your knowledge about restoration. Programs include:

Support restoration projects on public lands. Federal agencies, such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in the U.S., need to hear from citizens about the necessity of restoration activity. You can contact the agency directly or work through a conservation organization such as the Nature Conservancy or the Sierra Club.

Speak up. Write an op-ed to a newspaper or social media site advocating restoration work as a climate change solution. Consider writing longer pieces for online sites such as Medium, like this one about ecological restoration. Join a protest or campaign, such as these focused on the destruction of the Amazon:

Join a social media site run by an advocate for land protection and restoration. A sampling of social media sites:

Join a restoration network. Scientists, activists, landowners, and others can join networks such as Restor, which serve as hubs for efforts around the world, connecting practitioners with research data, funding, and contacts. There are Facebook group sites, such as this one for the Texas Society for Ecological Restoration. There are X sites for students and professionals and amateur restorationists.


Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Landowners

Adopt regenerative agriculture practices that restore depleted stocks of soil carbon, a key to reversing land degradation. Primers on regenerative agriculture include Gabe Brown’s book Dirt to Soil and his workshop Treating the Farm as an Ecosystem; Mark Shepard’s book Restoration Agriculture about growing perennial food crops, and its companion Water for Any Farm. The USDA provides a list of publications and resources on soil health. There are also scientific papers (such as this one) and research journals that can help farmers and ranchers decide on appropriate practices. See Regenerative Agriculture Nexus, Plant Diversity Nexus, and Hemp Nexus.

  • Organic no-till is a combination of chemical-free and no-tillage agriculture, often achieved with the use of cover crops.
  • Conservation tillage falls between no-till and full-till and usually involves cover crops.
  • Cover crops keep the ground covered using a wide variety of plants in order to protect the soil and build organic matter.
  • Polycultures and food forests traditionally employ two or more food types grown together, often utilizing trees in a multistory system.
  • Agroforestry is the integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems. It has been practiced around the world for centuries.
  • Composting is the aerobic decomposition of carbon-rich material, such as wood, manure, and food waste, into a soil-enriching amendment (see Compost Nexus).
  • Silvopasture is the integration of trees and grazing livestock on the same land, managed intensively for both forest products and forage (see Silvopasture Nexus).
  • Pasture cropping is the intercropping of an annual crop within a perennial pasture and usually includes livestock grazing.
  • Perennial crops are trees and vegetables that grow every year without seeding, including olives, asparagus, rhubarb, and globe artichokes (see Perennial Crops Nexus).
  • Integration of livestock into cropping is the deliberate use of grazing animals as part of annual crop production (see Animal Integration Nexus).
  • Biochar is a supercharged charcoal traditionally used as a method to boost the fertility of soils and capture water (see Biochar Nexus).
  • Biological fertilizers are created by earthworms and microbes that break down carbon and minerals naturally in the soils for plants to use.
  • Multispecies grazing, such as combining cattle and sheep into a single herd, can deliver multiple ecological and economic benefits.
  • Keyline and permaculture use landforms and natural processes, such as water flow, as part of a design process for farming and regeneration.

Join a collaborative restoration effort or a watershed group that is doing restoration work. There are regional, multistakeholder groups in the U.S. that include or feature agricultural producers in restoration activities, such as the Western Landowners AllianceSustainable Northwest, the Quivira Coalition, the Sage Grouse Initiative, and Rural Voice for Conservation Coalition. There are localized groups, including the Salmon Falls watershed collaborative in New Hampshire and the Blackfoot Challenge in Montana. See Beavers Nexus, Rewilding Nexus, Grasslands Nexus, and Wildlife Corridors Nexus.

Consult with land restoration experts. The Rodale Institute, a leader in organic and regenerative farming in the U.S., has a consulting guide for landowners. The Savory Network links progressive ranchers around the world. There are many individual consultants who work with landowners to improve their land and/or teach workshops and seminars, such as the Soil Health Academy, the Land Stewardship Project, and Rhizoterra. The Society for Ecological Restoration has a Directory where you can find local experts and companies that specialize in restoration.

Work with marketing, research, and entrepreneurial businesses that promote regenerative practices. The Rodale Institute has developed a certification for an organic regenerative standard that is used by companies. Commonland works with landowners in South Africa, Australia, Spain, and the Netherlands, employing social, natural, and financial capital. Here is a research article that estimates the size and impact of the restoration economy.

Remove exotic and invasive trees and vegetation and replace them with native species. Invasive species are a global problem and contribute to land degradation as well as insect and bird species decline. Solutions include fitting the correct native species to the soil type and vegetation class appropriate to local conditions. In arid lands, consider planting willows and cottonwoods or other drought-tolerant species.


Support regenerative agricultural practices that reverse land degradation as part of the supply chain. Some food corporations, such as General Mills and Danone, are beginning to embrace regenerative agriculture. Stay in touch to be sure the companies are implementing complete and authentic regenerative practices. A coalition of companies, including Mars and Nestlé, have formed the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B) coalition to improve global biodiversity with agriculture. Other businesses that focus on soil carbon and regenerative agriculture include:

Include natural capital and ecosystem services in business plans. An economic case for land restoration can be made based on the value of nature and the ecosystems service it provides, such as clean water. For example, a study in the Thukela basin of South Africa concluded that the benefits of land restoration outweighed the costs. Researchers found that restoring large areas of grassland by removing invasive plants, addressing soil erosion by replanting trees, and other practices would improve the basin’s ability to store carbon, lead to higher stocks of wild foods and medicines, and create more productive rangelands.

  • Ceres, a nonprofit that works with the business community, provides an investors’ guide to Deforestation and Climate Change.
  • Dendra Systems is a company that assists local communities develop plans for ecosystem restoration.

Support conservation projects through private capital. Financial partnerships between investors, nonprofits, private companies, and the public sector can help meet climate challenges faced by vulnerable communities. Blue Forest’s Forest Resilience Bond supports the Yuba reforestation project in Northern California. Another example is Terraformation, which provides private capital for restoration projects.

Partner with conservation organizations to implement natural climate solutions. Apple is partnering with Conservation International to protect and restore the 27,000-acre mangrove forest in Cispatá Bay, Colombia, which is expected to sequester one million metric tons of CO2 over its lifetime. Unilever is creating a $1 billion Climate and Nature Fund to support landscape restoration, reforestation, and carbon sequestration.


Pass healthy soil initiatives and other legislation that supports restoration and regeneration. State legislatures that have passed initiatives to improve soil health include CaliforniaVermontIllinoisNebraska, and New Mexico. These bills can be the foundation for restoring degraded land. At the federal level, ask members of Congress to support bills such as H.R. 8057, the Healthy Soil and Resilient Farmer Act of 2020, and S. 1356, the Healthy Soil and Healthy Climate Act of 2021.

  • In the UK, the government has introduced a law to sanction companies that are linked to rainforest destruction and degradation.

Finance restoration projects. Governments can directly finance, or other otherwise financially support land restoration projects, such as China’s large-scale work on the Loess Plateau and the multination Regreening Africa. In nations with public lands, government agencies can take the lead on restoration projects, such as the implementation of prescribed fires in U.S. national forests and wetlands restoration in national parks.

Adopt land restoration policies and objectives. Government agencies usually require policies to be enacted before they undertake projects. For example, the U.S. Forest Service conducts restoration work on its land under an Ecosystem Restoration Policy issued in 2016. Write to your representative and ask them to support restoration policies.

Protect land from further degradation. Nations have administrative tools or legislative processes that can permanently protect land from degradation, including the creation of national parks and monumentswilderness designation, and conservation reserves. In the U.S., threatened land can be purchased by the government through a fund that received a boost with the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, signed into law in 2020. Citizens can apply pressure for further action.

Enter into partnerships with universities, NGOs, landowners, and private businesses, to facilitate restoration work. Multistakeholder alliances are often enhanced with governmental partnerships, such as has happened in Canada. These partnerships often are the result of public pressure campaigns.

Respect traditional knowledge and implement traditional practices on public lands. Indigenous experience with fire management has influenced policy and practices on U.S. Forest Service lands. It can influence private conservation efforts as well, such as native plant restoration projects. Pressure from citizens and tribal members will encourage more policy changes.


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