The top 20 questions for forestry and landscapes

posted on January 6, 2015
Top 20 Questions

Top 20 Questions

We are pleased to publish the top 20 priority questions for forestry and landscapes. Thank you to everyone who took part.

The T20Q project – funded by CIFOR and supported by many partners during 2014 –  set out to collect policy-relevant questions relating to forestry and landscapes, as a first step towards support systematic reviews in these subjects. It was designed to work in two phases; firstly to crowd-source questions, and secondly to ask respondents to rank these. The audience was intended to be global, supported by partners with world-wide reach, and the survey was translated into multiple languages.

In the first phase 502 people submitted 2859 questions. Respondents came from over 100 countries. Questions received were coded with up to three keywords, allowing their grouping into clusters of terms or ‘themes’. In the second phase ‒ where questions were ranked ‒ 818 respondents (many of whom were thought to be new respondents) took part.

The top twenty questions

Here is the list of twenty priority questions derived from the process (where 1 is highest ranked):

  1. How can degraded ecosystems be restored to meet the objectives of biodiversity conservation, ecosystem function, ecosystem resilience, and sustainability of rural livelihoods?
  2. In the context of high human density and scarcity of farming land, how can we address the question of sustainable management of tropical forests? [Dans un contexte de forte densité humaine et de rareté des terres arables, comment peut-on aborder la question de gestion durable des forêts tropicales?]
  3. How can we integrate sustainability into trade regulation and law?
  4. How can we develop models of forest restoration that are economically feasible?
  5. Can we develop practical tools that allow land-planning and forest management to be better tailored to the needs, culture and perceptions of different communities and locations?
  6. What are the implications for biodiversity and the environment of using afforestation as a mean of carbon mitigation?
  7. How do we make sure that the needs of indigenous people who rely on intact forest systems are being met while also providing wood products for economic growth?
  8. How is it possible to develop a sustainable mechanism for payments for ecosystem services?
  9. What are the institutional arrangements that might enable smallholders within a landscape to jointly market the ecosystems services provided by reforestation of some of their land?
  10. How can we improve agriculture to reduce the pressure in forested areas?
  11. How can we best select species that simultaneously provide ecological and economic benefits?
  12. What are the best means to ensure that forest/landscape restoration projects add value to the landscape in terms of connectivity between populations and habitats, facilitating gene flow, species migration, as well as complementarity of land-uses and livelihoods of local people?
  13. How can local knowledge, wisdom and experiences (e.g. on tree species, NTFPs [non-timber forest products]) be effectively combined with national and subnational forest assessment, monitoring and management efforts?
  14. How can we guarantee effective protection and conservation of environmental services in a world increasingly in need of raw materials at low cost? [¿De que manera puede garantizarse la protección y conservación efectiva de los servicios ambientales en un mundo cada vez más tensionado por la necesidad de materias primas a bajo coste?]
  15. Adaptation to climate change means answering to trends in future climate and also to increasing risks. These two aspects are often studied separately when they should be combined. How to combine them?
  16. Can we really use ecosystem service values as a method to value a whole landscape?
  17. How can inclusive forest and landscape management be enhanced for the resource-poor?
  18. How can farmers get money from biodiversity conservation?
  19. How can we maintain, restore and shape water-friendly landscapes, including forests and trees, while addressing partly-conflicting land use and water needs of all stakeholders of a landscape?
  20. How can we ensure that forests are for the benefit of local economies and forests are not grabbed for the benefit of some foreign company?

Whether you took part or not, we would welcome any comments here on the blog about the final 20 questions, and of course the process as a whole.

Visit the T20Q project website


  1. i can only speak of my own experience here in england..but would like to flag up the problems we face in changing the attitudes of small people in local district councils, who seem to have neither the courage nor the interest in assisting groups and communities who hold a greater knowledge of what needs to be done to achieve the goals aspired to by those more committed to conservation, than politicians who are more committed to self preservation.

    Comment by katherine harris — January 9, 2015 @ 11:44 am

  2. A good list but is there some repetition here? Ecosystem services appears to mentioned (or alluded to) several times. For the UK context I would like to have seen something about jobs, training and skills.

    @katherine – sounds familiar but the fact is that there is precious little money left for managing public woods. We are striving to highlight the commercial opportunities that exist as well as seeking ways in which small ‘difficult’ woods and public/community woodland can be better managed. We are making some progress…but it is slow work.

    Comment by Matthew Morris — January 9, 2015 @ 12:29 pm

  3. The above 20Q is of course very worthy & interesting on a global level but as an English owner/manager of ancient woodland I don’t see too much relevance to me (unless I simply don’t understand the language!). It seems to me that the key question to little Englanders is ‘How do we help make active & sustainable management of our woodlands economically viable long-term?’

    Comment by Philip Solt — January 10, 2015 @ 7:26 pm

  4. Not sure I agree with Philip entirely. Questions 1,4,11 and 19 in particular, seem to have great resonance for UK forestry – restoration of degraded woods in economic ways, choosing the right tree for the right place, and looking after water through forestry. Maybe we should do this exercise for UK or Europe only again (it was some while ago you did t10Q I believe?)

    Comment by Bernard Farque — January 12, 2015 @ 11:43 am

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  7. 3.How can we integrate sustainability into trade regulation and law?
    Once it defined scientifically that some species of flora or fauna are endangered or have particular conservation status their management shall be subjected to the ongoing regulations and laws. For example many species are protected my CITES which is Convention on International trade of endangered species of wild fauna and flora . Elephant is one of them whose products including ivory and other ivory products trade is strictly. The limitation of the internation trade and commercial movement of elephant have great impact on the species conservation and determined its move back from appendice I to II between 1990 and 1997 help to recovering of some populations. The case of elephant with CITS regulation is a tangible and striking example an sustainable conservation using law and regulation

    Comment by Isidore — January 19, 2015 @ 11:14 pm

  8. How can we develop models of forest restoration that are economically feasible?
    To find out a cheaper model of forest restoration, it require a prerequisite that is a preliminary survey towards the formers persons or forest workers that has behind a large experience in reforestation activities. This will give useful information that will help to choose and appropriate ones. It also good to study the real need of indigenious population regarding the plant species that shall be planted. The adhesion of local community and their effective participation into the reforestation activity not as manpower but in a partnership to the forest management can ensure an affordable cost to the reforestion activities and also its maintenance while growing. THis means local will not be paid as a workers but just can be encouraged according to the available resources. To achieve this, community awareness shall be raised to this knowledhge and understanding of the importance of ecosystem conservation and its benefits for mankind.

    Comment by Isidore — January 19, 2015 @ 11:29 pm

  9. I think pratical tools for land-planning and forest management can be sustainable as long as it is respectful to culture and perceptions of different communities and locations. Then the indigenous knowledge from people living in the local areas and involved in forest management and any land use on the forest and their needs shall be studied an integrated the all fundamental documents including management plan and land use planning. It more reasonable to involve all the stakeholders from the planning design to their implementations. Only this can ensure its acceptance and its actual implementation.

    Comment by Isidore — January 20, 2015 @ 12:11 am

  10. Alarmingly perhaps the greatest threat to forests and woodlands globally is that from pests and diseases. The movement of timber and live plants, certainly in Europe, is so poorly regulated that infestation from new pests and diseases should be expected. Ash die-back highlighted some gaping holes in the UK’s bio-security that remain gaping open to this day!
    Without robust bio-security there will little left of our forests and woodlands to manage. How this issue has not made it into the T20Q is beyond me.

    Comment by Paul Hanson — January 20, 2015 @ 6:41 pm

  11. This list is strongly biased towards environmental services and especially biodiversity. Looking at Africa, the huge issue of energy is not even mentioned! Yet much of the denudation of landscapes (E.G. in Ethiopia and much of Eastern and southern Africa) is due to harvesting wood for firewood and charcoal.

    Further, the nexus between forests and wildlife and livestock is missing. We all know how much the wildlife conservation and animal production in Africa are dependent on availability dry season fodder from forests and woodlands!! How could this be missed?

    I propose that we categorize the areas as follows:
    1. Forests and environmental services/products (including biodiversity and water)
    2. Forests and local community livelihoods
    3. Forest fibre products (timber, poles, fuelwood/charcoal, rattan, etc.)
    4. Non-timber products (honey, resins, gums, fruits etc.)
    5. Forests and agriculture, livestock and wildlife conservation
    6. Forests and overall community and landscape development
    These may not be perfect but they at least give us an idea o how to formulate the right questions.

    Comment by August Temu — January 22, 2015 @ 6:27 am

  12. So what are the most promising strategies for 2015? My country launched in 2011 the National Greening Program (NGP) designed to answer most of the above questions but in my opinion, it has not achieved its full potential.

    Why is it very difficult for us ordinary citizens for our suggestions or concepts be heard?

    Comment by Nelson T. Enojo — January 22, 2015 @ 7:35 am

  13. This is a nice list of questions, but what happens next? The official website does not have a complete report with methodology, results, and discussion. There is no forum or platform to link participants to each other for potential collaboration. The pages are largely self-congratulatory. Looks like a glossy and cheap way for a development agency and its partners to crowd-source ideas and then reap all the benefits.

    Comment by TV — March 12, 2015 @ 8:12 pm

  14. Thanks for your comments ‘TV’. What happens next? A report has been submitted to CIFOR and they plan to follow up by identifying a number of questions to explore further by implementing systematic reviews. The report authors are working on a technical paper which they intend to submit for peer-review publication. This will include the full method, results and a discussion. Please do stay engaged as this is not intended as a ‘glossy’ exercise but a robust and meaningful means to ensuring participatory decision making and policy development.

    Comment by Gabriel Hemery — March 13, 2015 @ 2:41 pm

  15. Lets all encourage the passion in protecting wild plant and animal species and their habitats to ensure that nature will be around for future generations to enjoy and to recognize the importance of wildlife and wilderness lands to humans and other species alike. Thanks a lot for sharing.

    Comment by joseph muita — June 5, 2015 @ 9:09 am

  16. Well structured and frame questions. If answers can be obtained to these questions, life can be great

    Comment by James — June 18, 2015 @ 8:56 am

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