Recognizing the equity implications of restoration priority maps

Bill Schultz, Dan Brockington, Eric A. Coleman, Ida Djenontin, Harry W. Fischer, Forrest Fleischman, Prakash Kashwan, Kristina Marquardt, Marion Pfeifer, Rose Pritchard, Vijay Ramprasad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


A growing number of studies seek to identify global priority areas for conservation and restoration. These studies often produce maps that highlight the benefits of concentrating such activity in the tropics. However, the potential equity implications of using these prioritization exercises to guide global policy are less often explored and articulated. We highlight those equity issues by examining a widely publicized restoration priority map as an illustrative case. This map is based on a prioritization analysis that sought to identify places where restoration of agricultural land might provide the greatest biodiversity and carbon sequestration benefits at the lowest cost. First, we calculate the proportion of agricultural land in countries around the world that the map classifies as a top 15% restoration priority. A regression analysis shows that this map prioritizes restoration in countries where displacing agriculture may be most detrimental to livelihoods: countries that are poorer, more populated, more economically unequal, less food secure, and that employ more people in agriculture. Second, we show through another regression analysis that a similar pattern appears sub-nationally within the tropics: 5 km × 5 km parcels of land in the tropics that are less economically developed or more populated are more likely to be top 15% restoration priorities. In other words, equity concerns persist at a subnational scale even after putting aside comparisons between the tropics and the Global North. Restorative activity may be beneficial or harmful to local livelihoods depending on its conceptualization, implementation, and management. Our findings underline a need for prioritization exercises to better attend to the risks of concentrating potentially negative livelihood impacts in vulnerable regions. We join other scholars calling for greater integration of social data into restoration science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114019
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful for generous support from Formas, a Swedish government research council focused on sustainable development (grant numbers 2020-02781 and 2020-02872).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • climate change
  • mapping
  • priority-setting
  • restoration
  • social equity


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