How forest restoration takes root

Bringing an entire forest back to life

A view from inside the Atlantic Forest looking up towards sky.

When it comes to forests, the planet urgently needs us to do three things. First, stop deforestation. Second, sustainably manage forests so that they can continue to benefit people, nature, and wildlife. And third, restore forestland already lost where we can. Though in some places it may be impossible to truly restore all the diversity of life and benefits of a native forest, restoring a forest will still provide vital services for local communities, nature, and the rest of the world.

Tree-planting projects are commonplace, but rarer are projects that focus on bringing an entire forest back to life. The big reason? Forest landscape restoration is incredibly complicated, slow, and expensive. To restore a forest landscape—one that will thrive for generations into the future—every detail must be planned and adapted over time.

Much of forest landscape restoration happens before any trees go in the ground. Restoration requires mapping and analysis of thousands of acres to determine the smaller areas, towns, and individual parcels of land to prioritize. Local communities must be involved so that restoration experts understand their needs, challenges, and long-term goals for the land. Local individuals and forest scientists work together to develop an inclusive vision that identifies and supports alternative livelihoods, improves farming or sustainable forest management practices, and engages governments on laws and policies as parts of the planning process. This means lots of hard work with lots of people, but it’s all essential for forest landscape restoration to take root.

Ana Paula Silva, project coordinator at WWF's NGO partner Mater Natura (left), and Clarice Campera Bueno, a local producer, dairy farmer, and restoration partner, collect information about the 16 de Maio settlement in the state of Paraná, Brazil—an area that has been sited for forest restoration. 

Forest restoration project in the Mogi Guaçu River basin, Atlantic Forest

Forest restoration also requires a large and diverse mix of champions: individuals, businesses, governments, and organizations from all sectors and walks of life that understand the benefits of forestland and are willing to invest their time, energy, resources, and/or money into this work for the long term. When all the pieces come together, forest landscape restoration is nothing short of miraculous. We’re seeing this on the ground right now in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, thanks in large part to global companies stepping up to become forest champions.

A path forward for forests

In 2019, HP and WWF embarked on a groundbreaking partnership that, as part of a broader strategy to protect and improve the health of forests, included a goal of restoring over 1,000 acres of forestland in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest region. In only two years, and despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, we’ve engaged over 50 local institutions and 150 community stakeholders to secure their participation as part of the forest restoration process. In support of the Raízes do Mogi Guaçu project, 158 acres of land have been put under restoration, including more than 66,000 seedlings planted and 37 freshwater springs protected. And most importantly, this partnership has helped build a community-centered foundation to ensure these efforts will safeguard a thriving forest ecosystem in the long term.

The Raízes project is a gold standard for collaborative forest landscape restoration, with a commitment to put people first, ensuring that each project prioritizes listening to local stakeholders, social safeguards, and community benefits. There’s also always room for expansion—projects like this can be scaled up with additional partners and investment.

In October 2021, HP decided to do exactly that, growing the original WWF partnership to focus on the key components of forest conservation: protection, improved management, and restoration. While restoration is only one piece of the puzzle, this expanded partnership means more projects like Raízes, potentially totaling thousands of additional acres of restored forestland. HP has a goal to counteract potential deforestation and forest degradation for all paper used in HP products, regardless of brand, by 2030. And through this expanded partnership, WWF is helping HP achieve this ambition by addressing 17 million metric tons of paper used in HP printers over 10 years—the equivalent of sustainably managing, restoring, and protecting nearly 1 million acres of forest.

For climate, nature, and communities

Forest projects at this scale, with this depth and breadth, need more attention, collaboration, and patient investment if we are going to see the lasting benefits for our climate, nature, and communities that we desperately need. Because while planting trees can be good, there’s no comparison to bringing a forest back to life. In fact, there’s only one thing better than forest restoration: protecting and sustainably managing the forests we still have. As protection, restoration, and improved forest management partnerships are proving, we can meet all of humanity’s demands on forests without any further damage; and we can even give back to the planet in the process.