- Mongabay has launched an upgrade to Reforestation.app, our global directory of tree-planting projects, aimed at improving transparency in the sector.
- Reforestation.app is a free online tool for people to support reforestation by providing a means to identify projects that align with their interests and motivations.
- The update features an improved project search functionality, a step-by-step guide for filtering projects, and the ability to update and add new projects.
Reforestation initiatives are more popular than ever, with thousands of projects across the globe led by private companies, nonprofits, institutions, governments and communities. So how can an investor or donor decide what projects to support? What kinds of questions should be asked to assess tree-planting projects and ensure they deliver the results they promise?
To help address these questions, Mongabay partnered with Vizzuality to bring greater transparency to the reforestation landscape. Reforestation.app is a user-friendly tool for reforestation experts, practitioners and supporters to connect with projects through improved transparency and access to information.
Recently updated, Reforestation.app features a revamped user interface, improved search and filter functionalities, and step-by-step guidance to help people identify projects that align with diverse motivations and interests.
Filling the tree-planting transparency gap
Mongabay has an extensive track record of making high-quality environmental information available to the public through independent journalism. Reforestation.app builds on this work by improving the availability of information about tree planting and providing important context for individuals seeking to find an appropriate project.
“Much of Mongabay’s work is devoted to telling the story of deforestation, so this tool facilitates our newsroom to investigate what tree-planting projects hope to achieve by regrowing forests, who is involved in the work, and how progress is being communicated.” says Willie Shubert, Mongabay’s global program director. “We’ve observed a wide gap in the disclosure of information about tree-planting projects, so our efforts to improve the transparency of these projects are essential to the success of the sector.” Currently, no formal third-party certification or verification process exists for forest restoration projects. But projects can use Reforestation.app as a guide for improving their transparency.
A Transparency Index
Mongabay initially seeded the database with more than 350 projects and organized research into what projects publicly disclose relevant criteria experts say are keys to success. These criteria are grouped into five categories: context, ecological, economic, institutional, and social. Mongabay drew the 36 project criteria primarily from the Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) approach, widely heralded as the gold standard across the restoration sector. The FLR approach centers on the people that depend on the forest, aiming to restore ecological functionality while enhancing human well-being, with a strong focus on monitoring and adapting the project to changes over time.
This analysis serves to bring greater transparency to the world of reforestation. But why has Mongabay chosen to focus on transparency? Higher levels of transparency about a project signal that a tree-planting organization is aware of the complexities involved in a successful restoration project and has both the staff and capacity to organize, monitor and report back on its results — all crucial components for success in planting trees across deforested landscapes.
An important caveat is that the database is informed entirely by an organization’s self-reporting. The absence of information on an organization’s website does not necessarily mean the organization has neglected to address those criteria. So rather than make an assessment (and perceived endorsement) of a project’s quality, Mongabay reviews how much information an organization publicly discloses through its website and annual reports. In other words: how much information does an organization share publicly? If it does not disclose important information about its projects, it may be prudent to ask why.
For a conservation tool to be optimized for its target audience, having a high-quality, impactful user interface is necessary. For that reason, Mongabay partnered with Vizzuality to make Reforestation.app a reality.
“We feel the previous version was satisfactory, but the new changes provide a solid foundation for growth,” says Pablo Urrutia, Vizzuality’s project manager. “Reforestation.app has a better design for existing users’ needs: submitting, modifying, or navigating the projects with filters. We focused on better navigation and improving context at every step, adding a search bar, step-by-step guidance, additional project details, and more. We are eager to see how these changes improve the experience of users and Mongabay alike.”
The new design makes it easier to navigate by offering an intuitive, user-friendly interface. Overall, this upgrade makes the experience of finding a reforestation project that suits users faster, easier and more enjoyable.
Among the notable features is improved search functionality, allowing users to narrow their search criteria based on their motivations and interests through advanced search options, including step-by-step guidance through the five categories. These upgrades enable people who care about reforestation to easily access quality, transparent data to inform their decision-making.
How it works
To find projects that match specific interests, users can filter the reforestation catalog using the 36 indicators grouped into the five categories: context, ecological, economic, institutional, and social. Users can then examine the details based on the project chart, in which the circular diagram represents the completeness of transparency for each project. Clicking through provides more information.
Mongabay will continue to add new projects to Reforestation.app. Individuals can also use the project submission form if they do not see their favorite organization listed yet (and will be notified if their suggestion is approved). Users can use the Submit Project button at the top of every page to add a new project. In addition, anyone can suggest an update to existing projects by filling in the form linked to the Suggest Page Edits button available on every project page. All edits are reviewed and verified by Mongabay before being published.
Building a community
In parallel to building Reforestation.app, Mongabay has also launched a brand-new reforestation newsletter aimed at a growing, global community of people interested in this topic. This is the best way to stay updated on Reforestation.app’s new developments and the latest reforestation projects and news from around the world. Subscribers can expect an email a month with several tree-planting resources, such as podcasts, videos, news articles and events. If you would like to be part of this budding community, subscribe here.
Related listening from Mongabay’s podcast: A discussion of reforestation projects around the world that prioritize communities as well as the environment, listen here: