By Nicole Schwab

Today, in my third and last post of this series on Treesisters’ Reforestation Strategy, I want to say a few words about our geographic focus.

Our starting point, once again, was Clare’s initial mission statement, namely that Treesisters aims to “reforest the tropics”. But, what do we mean by “the tropics”? Are we referring strictly to the geographic area lying on either side of the Equator, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn? Are we referring to “tropical forests”, as ecosystems characterized by high average temperatures and significant rainfall?

And more importantly, why are we focusing on the tropics in the first place? Shouldn’t we broaden our geographic reach to cover the entire planet?

To answer these questions, we went back to our strategic focus, which entails funding: (1) afforestation and re-greening to control soil erosion, restore and maintain watersheds, and restore top soil, and (2), the protection of intact forest landscapes.

First, with respect to afforestation and re-greening, we decided to prioritize:

  • countries experiencing important land degradation and desertification issues;
  • countries covering the world’s 3 major water basins, which experience important water quantity and quality issues, further exacerbated by climate change (the Niger basin, the Nile basin and the Ganges basin),
  • countries with important soil degradation issues (soil hardening and erosion), and high rates of poverty, and
  • countries that are the lowest performers on IUCN’s gender and environment index.

Using a variety of relevant data sources, these criteria led us to identify as a priority the countries highlighted in yellow and red in the map below.


Second, when it comes to Intact Forest Landscapes, the obvious question is, where are they?

Intact Forest Landscapes cover less than 10% of the Earth’s total land area and consist of humid tropical forests, and boreal forests in the Northern and Southern latitudes. They exist in 66 countries, with two-thirds of these forests concentrated in just 3 countries: Brazil, Russia and Canada.

Using satellite-imaging data from a variety of sources, we decided to look at which of these forested regions suffered from the highest rates of deforestation, and which presented the highest potential for landscape restoration in their immediate vicinity.

This analysis led us to identify a second set of priority countries, highlighted in dark and light green on the map.

Interestingly, as you can see on the map, the analysis suggests that indeed, our geographic focus should be on the tropics – broadly defined. This makes sense, not only as a methodological conclusion arising from our criteria, but also because:

  • Tropical forests are more efficient in cooling the Earth (as a result of their higher rates of evapotranspiration and carbon removal).
  • 16 biodiversity hotpots out of 25 are located in the tropics, and most of them are forested hotpots.
  • Most countries in the tropics have scarce conservation resources – and their natural resources are under threat.

In summary, the above map and the reforestation criteria we presented will be our guiding framework for the identification and selection of projects to receive funding from the Treesisters network.

Treesisters’ reforestation strategy may seem massively ambitious, especially given we have only just started funding our first trees. Yet we felt we needed to clarify our broader vision, and share with you what we are working towards. In doing so, we are laying out the container that can hold our collective dreams and energy.

We know we can’t do this alone. We are walking this path together, with each one of you, and with all the other amazing organisations working around the world towards the same goal.

Selected Data Sources: 

Mapping the World’s Intact Forest Landscapes by Remote Sensing. Potapov P., et al. Ecology and Society, 13. 2008.

FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005

Peter Potapov, Lars Laestadius, and Susan Minnemeyer. Global Map of Forest Landscape Restoration Opportunities. World Resources Institute: Washington, DC. 2008.

IUCN’s Gender and Environment Index.

Biodiversity Hotspots  for Conservation Priorities, N. Myers et al. Nature 403, 853-858, 24 February 2000.

Nicole is an author and social entrepreneur, co-founder of the Forum of Young Global Leaders, and of EDGE Certified – a global scheme certifying organizations for 20140910_5d3_07665-coul2closing the gender gap in the workplace. Her book, The Heart of the Labyrinthgives voice to her engagement on behalf of a world that values and honors the sacred feminine and is rooted in our connection to the Earth as a living being.



This article originally appeared on the Tree Sisters Blog and out has been copied here as this question is asked of us a lot.