Limited effects of tree planting on forest canopy cover and rural livelihoods in Northern India

Eric A. Coleman, Bill Schultz, Vijay Ramprasad, Harry Fischer, Pushpendra Rana, Anthony M. Filippi, Burak Güneralp, Andong Ma, Claudia Rodriguez Solorzano, Vijay Guleria, Rajesh Rana, Forrest Fleischman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Many countries have adopted large-scale tree planting programmes as a climate mitigation strategy and to support local livelihoods. We evaluate a series of large-scale tree planting programmes using data collected from historical Landsat imagery in the state of Himachal Pradesh in Northern India. Using this panel dataset, we use an event study design to estimate the socioeconomic and biophysical impacts over decades of these programmes. We find that tree plantings have not, on average, increased the proportion of forest canopy cover and have modestly shifted forest composition away from the broadleaf varieties valued by local people. Further cross-sectional analysis, from a household livelihood survey, shows that tree planting supports little direct use by local people. We conclude that decades of expensive tree planting programmes in this region have not proved effective. This result suggests that large-scale tree planting may sometimes fail to achieve its climate mitigation and livelihood goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)997-1004
Number of pages8
JournalNature Sustainability
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank our field researchers for data collection. B. Lawrence assisted with geospatial processing tasks. Research was funded by NASA Land Cover and Land Use Change (LULUC): NNX17AK14G, which supported the work of all authors.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.


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