Ecosystem restoration in Mexico: Insights on the project planning phase

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Background: A deep discussion of the phases of planning by all stakeholders will help to identify the challenges faced by countries that are embarking on large-scale restoration actions to comply with international agreements. Question: Was the planning phase of restoration projects done according to international guidance? We evaluated six of the eight aspects of the international guidance for the planning phase of restoration projects carried out in Mexico between 1979 and 2016. Methods: The information about the restoration projects was compiled using a digital survey composed of 137 questions. Results: Seventy-five projects with a total area of 1,556,840 hectares were analyzed, mainly in temperate, humid, and deciduous forest. More projects measured the baseline with biotic than with abiotic variables, and social variables were seldom evaluated. Most projects aimed to recover biodiversity or ecosystem services, and they identified a reference ecosystem. Planned budgets included mainly field work. Conclusions: To promote the integration of ecological, social, and economic priorities, landscape restoration is suggested, since it is done at a scale which maximizes the benefits for nature and people. The inclusion of only field work in the budgets may decrease the total cost, but it may jeopardize project success due to poor planning. Careful and detailed planning of a national strategy constructed by all stakeholders that includes restoration of original ecosystems, agroforestry systems (which facilitate social participation and increase land productivity) and patches under natural succession, and investing in highly trained human resources will allow successful compliance with international restoration commitments.

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