USDA Forest Service -- National Agroforestry Center


Date of this Version



J. Stanturf et al. (eds.), Forest Landscape Restoration: Integrating Natural and Social Sciences, World Forests 15, DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-5326-6_5


5.1 Forest Loss and Ecosystem Services

Many formerly forested regions have been largely cleared and are now important crop and livestock producing lands (Fig. 5.1 ). This is true of many parts of the world including United States’ southeastern coastal plain, Brazil’s rainforests, Northern Europe’s lowlands, China’s northeastern plains, Indonesia’s lowlands, and floodplains of most of the world’s large rivers. Through widespread conversion of forests to intensively-managed agricultural uses, these countries have created highly productive agricultural economies.

Environmental issues have arisen as consequences of the loss and fragmentation of forests, including soil erosion, water pollution, and fi sh and wildlife population declines (Green et al. 2005 ; Schröter et al. 2005 ; Matson and Vitousek 2006 ) . The pre-existing forests provided the public with high levels of desired ecosystem services, including clean water, healthy fi sh and wildlife, biodiversity, climate moderation, wood and food products, and aesthetic qualities (Fig. 5.2 ). Subsequent decline of these services has resulted in lower levels of social well-being, causing public concern (MEA 2005 ) . To regenerate them, restoration of large tracts of land back to forest may be a logical goal, but it may not be feasible. Doing so may put the supply of plentiful and affordable food at risk, and, convincing numerous farm workers, landholders, communities, and industries to change their social fabric woven around agriculture to one centered on forestry may pose a daunting social challenge.