The progressive degradation of tropical forest ecosystems in many parts of the world has, in addition to undermining biodiversity conservation efforts, negatively impacted human societies and economies at the local, national and regional scales. In countries such as India facing acute shortages of highly productive agricultural land, the continued demands placed on natural forests for timber, fuelwood, fodder and a variety of other non-wood forest products are placing severe stresses on these ecosystems that exceed their capacity to recover both structurally and functionally, leading to their decline and eventual replacement by unproductive, biologically impoverished wastelands. Forest scientists have the opportunity (as well as a professional obligation) to contribute in a significant way to the reversal of forest degradation by applying the knowledge gained in recent decades to develop and promote innovative approaches to forest rehabilitation that blend local and national social and economic development goals with environmental protection objectives. In this paper, recent developments in tropical silviculture and restoration ecology are discussed with special reference to their application for rehabilitating degraded landscapes. Specifically, the role of planted forests as a tool for large-scale restoration of tropical forest ecosystems, as well as strategies that can be used to meet both socio-economic and environmental goals by adapting our current knowledge to specific local situations, are considered.