Week 4

3 Sep 2018

Monitoring Landscape Restoration 

Posted: 9/3/2018

Assignment due: 9/9/2018

How do we know if we succeeded in restoring a landscape? How do we ensure that further degradation does not occur? How can we co-create a process and criteria of success with all stakeholders in a landscape?

This week we complete our series with a crucial, but sometimes forgotten, concept in landscape restoration: Monitoring.

This weeks learning will cover:

  • Monitoring Restoration: A Challenge in Itself
  • The Necessity of Monitoring
  • When to Start
  • Types of Monitoring
    • Choosing the Right Indicators
  • Case Study
  • Restoration Challenge

Monitoring restoration: A challenge in Itself

We may all set out with the same goal in mind – restoring degraded lands – but it is only with identified markers for success and monitoring measures that we understand when we have reached this goal. Monitoring for success is a key component to any project and its implementation but it is crucial to know that monitoring in restoration projects can be a challenge in itself. Read on to learn the characteristics of restoration monitoring:

  • While processes like deforestation or degradation can happen at a fast rate, possibly seeing great changes within days, landscape restoration usually takes place on the order of years or decades. This means that monitoring for restoration projects are based on a long-term horizon. Monitoring approaches and techniques should be chosen to fit the needs of continuous, long-term observation.  
  • Deforestation is typically measured in hundreds and thousands of hectares whereas restoration happens on a smaller scale on more dispersed plots of land, usually measured in a few or hundreds of hectares. Due to the comparably small scale and dispersed location, monitoring restoration efforts can be an expensive endeavor.

These characteristics make restoration monitoring generally difficult, costly and complex to monitor but we are always up to the challenge!

The necessity of monitoring

Often times one’s interaction with monitoring and reporting is shaped by requirements set by a funder and donor. Though this type of monitoring is key for sustained funding to projects, these can often be shaped with short-term thinking in mind, namely reporting on short-term achievements and progress on outcomes as budgeted. The monitoring discussed in this course is shaped by long-term thinking and with a holistic perspective of several factors. This type of monitoring collects data not on physical, environmental, social, economic, and policy or institutional changes within your landscape.

Why monitor when we can just restore?

If you are still not convinced, read on to learn about the multiple reasons to monitor.

  • To gauge success of the project.
  • To communicate and document results and outcomes.
  • To identify unintended consequences that threaten sustainability of the restoration.
  • To adjust plans and intervene when aspects are not going as planned
  • To support implementation and provide crucial feedback for collective learning and adaptive management.
  • To ensure transparency and enhance trust among all stakeholders (investors, project partners, local communities, etc.) through creating a clear set of data about progress
  • Lastly, monitoring progress allows reporting to national, regional and global commitments like the AFR100 or the Bonn challenge.
  • To learn lessons.

To learn more about monitoring, read Module 4 in IUFRO’s practitioner’s guide for FLR here (optional).

When to Start

Deciding on the type of monitoring you will use in your project should not be done post-implementation but factored at the very beginning of project design. This means the project must be borne with a robust framework and engaged stakeholders. One tool to assist you with a structured start is called ROAM – Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology, created by the IUCN and WRI to help countries identify priorities on national or sub-national levels. Though this methodology was created for countries the key questions are applicable on every level.

  • ROAM begins when a community that manages land decides to restore a portion of it. The first question to ask is “What are the main problems caused by degradation?” and identify the goals of successful intervention.
  • With clearly identified goals, a multi-stakeholder assessment team can be assembled that works with a variety of community stakeholders who serve as local advisors.
  • The team then gathers and analyzes data on a variety of factors (physical and ecological, social and economic, and policy). The analysis produces a variety of recommendations, watch the video to learn more.

Types of Monitoring

  1. Surveillance monitoring: Generally an ongoing practice to measure specific factors, measured at sample points across the years. Examples include a forest inventory, population census, soil erosion monitoring, etc.
    1. Helps you to identify whether ecological properties are changing in an undesirable or positive way or whether there are changes in land-use activity associated with your intervention.
  2. Implementation monitoring: An assessment of whether activities where taken on time and as stated in a specified contract, this is the type of monitoring generally required by donors. Some of the best practices here use GIS data layers as they are useful for both implementation and effectiveness monitoring.
    1. Was management implemented according to initial project design?
  3. Effectiveness monitoring: Monitoring that occurs in both short and long timeframes and encompasses data collected from implementation monitoring in addition to other data on important landscape features. This expands beyond those factors directly influenced by your restoration intervention and includes monitoring of additional effects that help you truly answer “was restoration successful.”
    1. Did management interventions achieve your social, economic, or ecological goals?
  4. Socio-ecological effects monitoring: Similar to effectiveness monitoring, this type of monitoring seeks to answer whether the project achieved restoration success. This type of monitoring is very long-term and seeks to also integrate the sustainability of the project in whether it adapted well to future outcomes such as population growth, land use change, and climate change.
    1. Did management actions result in any benefits, trade-offs, or unintended questions?

Useful tools that can assist you in keeping track of your own data and that which exists are: CollectEarth and the Tree Cover Mapping Tool. These tools use freely available imagery from google earth and are useful for those with limited funds and time to explore more expensive systems.  

Choosing the Right Indicators

Setting the right indicators is crucial to monitor efficient, effective and the right way. This article by IUCN provides you with an overview on basic indicators to monitor.

It is important to note that stakeholders should find agreement on the indicators and the collection system chosen. Upon agreement, stakeholders are crucial for identifying baselines and aiding in data collection over the time period.

Case Study

How can monitoring assess and secure success? Read the national restoration progress in Rwanda, planned through the ROAM tool and monitored by the Bonn Challenge Barometer, the official monitoring tool for the Bonn Challenge.


There is also a case shown below which outlines how you can view a restoration project with both the lens of planning and monitoring.


Find out how restoration ready you are by taking this short quiz. This quiz marks the completion of the course, for training participants wishing to receive a certificate of completion, all 4 quizzes (1 a week) are mandatory. Qualifying participants will receive a certificate via email.


Restoration Challenge:

We have encountered a lot of information in the last 4 weeks and for those that attended last weeks workshop – even more learning packed in 4-days. Knowledge is powerful but it is informed action that changes the world.

Take a moment to reflect on what is the next action you will take. Last week, in person participants decided to break out into 4 thematic working groups: entrepreneurship, education and capacity building, policy advocacy, and leveraging partnerships. Through taking individual actions in each of these spaces we can begin to make collective progress.

  • Your assignment: Tell the world what next action you commit to taking in restoration? We have had 4-days of inspirational dialogue, 4-weeks of learning, now its time to look within.

Start your posts with “I commit…” and share them on Facebook using the #GLFNairobi2018 #thinklandscape and #YlLRestoration

  • We are on a mission to develop better content for young people passionate about landscape issues! During our online learning, you have encountered various materials and lessons of the FAO Sustainable Forest Management Toolbox (SFM). Please help improving this online teaching tool by conducting this survey.

Now you are pretty close to Restoration Ready! But wouldn’t it be great if there was an online knowledge hub to discuss projects and methods, to get help with problems and to take action together?

Share your thoughts with us