The direct human-induced conversion of land that has not been forested for a period of at least 50 years, to forested land through planting, seeding and/or the human-induced promotion of natural seed sources.

REDD+ relevance

Afforestation is an activity included under the CDM A/R category and the VCS ARR category. There are a range of definitions for afforestation: some definitions are based on phrases such as "has not supported forest in historical time;" others refer to a specific period of years and some make reference to other processes, such as "under current climate conditions." The IPCC Guidelines define afforestation as the "planting of new forests on lands which, historically, have not contained forests" (IPCC, 2000).

Afforestation can be viewed as an activity of REDD+ because it can increase carbon sequestration. Furthermore, despite the fundamental difference in project design in terms of creating new forest rather than protecting existing forest, lessons can be learned from design, implementation and monitoring, reporting and verification of afforestation activities.

Afforestation differs from its sister activity, reforestation, only in that the activity will be afforestation if the land on which it takes place had not been forested for at least 50 years, whereas reforestation refers to land that did not contain forest before 1990 (Smith 2002). The IPCC states that if both actions are treated equivalently in terms of accounting, their precise distinction is not important for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol (IPCC, 2000).           

Key discussion points

Activities such as the establishment of mono-specific or multi-species plantations for wood and non-wood products appear to be compatible with the definition of afforestation, as are both industrial and community-based plantations. Current rules of the CDM do not prevent the planting of large-scale monoculture plantations in project areas, such as fast-growing eucalyptus and pine trees. Aside from using often invasive and non-native species, large scale monoculture plantation such as these can, in some cases, consume huge volumes of water, threaten biological diversity and cause soil erosion (Razak et al. 2009). However, crucially, plantations established after cutting down forests would not qualify under this definition, which prevents afforestation offering land-owners perverse incentives to deforest already forested land. Plantations would however qualify under afforestation if established on grasslands, agricultural lands or degraded forest land with less than 10% canopy cover (Smith 2002).


IPCC. 2000. Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry – Special Report. Cambridge University Press, UK. Available here. [Accessed November 2013]

RAZAK, S., SON, Y., LEE, W., CHO, Y. AND NOH, N. 2009. Afforestation and reforestation with the clean development mechanism: Potentials, problems, and future directions. Forest Science and Technology, 5:2, 45-56. Available here. [Accessed November 2013]

SMITH, J. 2002. Afforestation and reforestation in the clean development mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol: implications for forests and forest people. International Journal of Global Environmental Issues, Vol. 2, Nos. 3/4. Availble here. [Accessed November 2013]