Reversing trends in forest degradation and deforestation is essential for tackling climate change and preventing ecosystem service and biodiversity decline: critical if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be met. Political support for forest restoration at global, regional and national levels is high, but set against a backdrop of continued demand for cultivated land and ongoing deforestation. There is a risk that meeting nationally-determined restoration targets could displace land demand to active deforestation frontiers, generating net biodiversity and carbon losses. Focussing on Colombia, a country that hosts 10% of global biodiversity, we use the spatial partial-equilibrium model GLOBIOM to ask whether national restoration targets (1 million ha by 2030) could be achieved in congruence with increasing demand for agricultural, bioenergy and wood products. We test multiple scenarios of forest restoration linked to specific policies and aims, including focussing on restoring priority ecosystems, or restoring recently deforested land following national policies on the agricultural frontier. We also project future forest cover loss and gain using a probabilistic model based on historic biophysical, demographic, market and non-market drivers of land cover change. Contrasting the results of these models suggests that while there is substantial space for forest restoration to occur on low-yielding pastures without displacing market demand for agriculture to forest frontiers, land use change drivers such as conflict, illicit crops and land speculation that are not captured in market-focussed models might determine success in generating net benefits from restoration. Finally, we discuss the implications of these restoration scenarios and land use futures for biodiversity in Colombia by examining land cover change for different ecosystems and important locations for biodiversity. Opportunities to generate net gains for biodiversity, climate and people from forest restoration are large, but, as shown for the case of Colombia, will require challenging joined-up thinking across multiple disciplines to become reality.
economic agriculture leakage scenarios forest restoration regrowth deforestation