Reversing large-scale degradation and deforestation goes beyond what can be achieved by site-level ecological restoration. Forest and landscape restoration focuses on spatial scales beyond the “site” level, where multiple land uses and forms of land ownership coexist, and where management decisions are usually made by different sets of stakeholders. In this context, natural regeneration can be a cost-effective approach to expand buffer zones of protected areas or forest reserves, create new forest patches and riparian zones, and create biological corridors to link existing protected areas. Here, I describe different modalities of natural regeneration, describe their benefits and features, and present several case studies of large-scale natural regeneration. Regrowing forests are often ignored, and their ecological and economic value remains largely unrecognized. Effective incentives for landowners and local communities are needed to encourage and protect naturally regenerating forests on farms. Predicting and mapping areas with a high capacity for natural regeneration will lower the overall costs of implementing restoration at local, regional, and national levels and may permit larger areas to be restored. Regrowing tropical forests will play an increasingly important role in climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation in our future uncertain world.
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