Study shows how satellite images can be used to assess progress and patterns in landscape restoration

Posted: 20th September 2022

Photo: George Soare

A recent study has shown how images from satellites can be used to assess progress and patterns in landscape-scale restoration, by looking in changes in vegetation over a 200,000 ha area of the southern Carpathian mountains. This landscape is the focus of the ELP-funded Restoration Landscape project that aims to create a new wilderness in the Făgăraș Mountains of Romania.

The project, led by Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC), is purchasing and protecting areas of old-growth forest as well as replanting areas that have been logged or covered with plantation forestry. The new study, carried out in collaboration between the ELP, Zoological Society of London and Imperial College, looked at changes in landcover in areas restored or protected by FCC and also across the wider landscape, to assess the impacts of both large scale active ecosystem restoration and also passive restoration due to land abandonment over the past decade.

Snow capped mountains on a sunny day with a mix of autumn deciduous trees and pine trees at the base.

Results from this study could aid restoration efforts such as the ELP-funded Carpathian Mountains project to assess their progress. Photo: George Soare.

This study is the first to contrast the impacts of active and passive restoration within a single landscape at such large temporal and spatial scales. The authors found that both active and passive restoration were having substantial impacts across the landscape: active replanting and restructuring of natural forests were very effective at facilitating the recovery in relatively small patches of the landscapes; in addition, natural forest expansion led to a significant increase in forest cover, particularly in the northern part of the landscape. This passive restoration is likely to be related to agricultural abandonment, in line with wider regional trends.

A group of people appear to be planting trees in a sparse, cold looking landscape on a hillside.

Both active and passive restoration are essential for landscape recovery. Photo: FCC.

The analysis demonstrated the power of freely available satellite data to provide insights into the landscape-scale transformations that are taking place in Europe. In addition, the results show that both active and passive restoration can be important and complementary strategies to restore natural ecosystems and help to combat the biodiversity and climate crises.

Find the full paper on the ScienceDirect website. Read more about the Carpathian Mountains on our Restoration Landscape project page.

Reference: Hartup, J., Ockendon, N., & Pettorelli, N. (2022) Active versus passive restoration: Forests in the southern Carpathian Mountains as a case study. Journal of Environmental Management, 322, 116003.

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