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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Revegetation through seeding or planting: A worldwide systematic map

Lazaro-Gonzalez, Alba; Andivia, Enrique; Hampe, Arndt; Hasegawa, Shun; Marzano, Raffaella; Santos, Ana M. C.; Castro, Jorge; Leverkus, Alexandro B.


Roughly 2 billion ha of land are degraded and in need of ecological restoration worldwide. Active restoration frequently involves revegetation, which leads to the dilemma of whether to conduct direct seeding or to plant nursery-grown seedlings. The choice of revegetation method can regulate plant survival and performance, with economic implications that ultimately feed back to our capacity to conduct restoration. We followed a peer -reviewed protocol to develop a systematic map that collates, describes and catalogues the available studies on how seeding compares to planting in achieving restoration targets. We compiled a database with the charac-teristics of all retrieved studies, which can be searched to identify studies of particular locations and habitats, objectives of restoration, plant material, technical aspects, and outcomes measured. The search was made in eight languages and retrieved 3355 publications, of which 178 were retained. The systematic map identifies research gaps, such as a lack of studies in the global South, in tropical rainforests, and covering a long time period, which represent opportunities to expand field-based research. Additionally, many studies overlooked reporting on important technical aspects such as seed provenance and nursery cultivation methods, and others such as watering or seedling protection were more frequently applied for planting than for seeding, which limits our capacity to learn from past research. Most studies measured outcomes related to the target plants but avoided measuring general restoration outcomes or economic aspects. This represents a relevant gap in research, as the choice of revegetation method is greatly based on economic aspects and the achievement of restoration goals goes beyond the establishment of plants. Finally, we identified a substantial volume of studies conducted in temperate regions and over short periods (0-5 y). This research cluster calls for a future in-depth synthesis, potentially through meta-analysis, to reveal the overall balance between seeding and planting and assess whether the response to this question is mediated by species traits, environmental characteristics, or technical aspects. Besides identifying research clusters and gaps, the systematic map database allows managers to find the most relevant scientific literature on the appropriateness of seeding vs. planting for particular conditions, such as certain species or habitats.


Reforestation; Sowing; Seedling; Nursery; Forestry; UN Decade on ecosystem restoration

Published in

Journal of Environmental Management
2023, Volume: 337, article number: 117713

    Associated SLU-program


    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG15 Life on land

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Management

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)