A ‘forest transition’ is a turnaround from historical forest loss to forest gain, as experienced by Switzerland since 1850. Forest regrowth may result from abandonment of less productive farmlands as a country modernizes and urbanizes, or, from policies and initiatives which promote forest protection or new plantations. Forest transitions have recently been described for several tropical countries, prominently including Vietnam, but the exact nature of the transitions and their feedback into development remain largely uninvestigated.

Lay summary

Content and aim of the research project


Our aim is to contribute to a better understanding of tropical forest transitions as they relate to sustainable development. Focusing on a study site in Central Vietnam, we will (i) describe recent forest cover changes and their causes, including widespread planting of Australian acacias and ecological succession in different forest types, and (ii) investigate the consequences of these changes on availability of timber and non-timber products and other types of ecosystem services like watershed protection. We will (iii) assess the livelihood outcomes and valuations of different types of forests for local stakeholders within current institutional, economic, and policy contexts; in particular, we will (iv) investigate the effectiveness of new ‘payments for forest environmental services’ policies.


Scientific and societal context of the research project


Our project will generate essential information on the impacts of diverse processes (policies, socio-economic change, ecological dynamics) in achieving a practical, sustainable forest management regime that maintains, restores and optimizes key forest ecosystem functions and services from both planted and natural forests. Research will be connected to outreach programs, including capacity building for forest professionals, knowledge exchange between stakeholders, and evidence-based policy improvements and innovations.