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Introduction to Restoration Ecology. What is ecological restoration? . Why do restoration?. Human impacts threaten integrity, resilience and sustainability Introduced species, structures, and processes Altered disturbance regimes Fragmentation Changing climate.

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introduction to restoration ecology

Introduction to Restoration Ecology

What is ecological restoration?

why do restoration
Why do restoration?
  • Human impacts threaten integrity, resilience and sustainability
    • Introduced species, structures, and processes
    • Altered disturbance regimes
    • Fragmentation
    • Changing climate
what are the goals of restoration
What are the goals of restoration?
  • Make ecosystems more like they once were
  • Reduce need for continual intervention and active management
  • Sustainability
  • Ecological integrity
  • Resilience
defining ecological restoration
Defining ecological restoration
  • “the process of assisting the recovery and management of ecological integrity. Ecological integrity includes a critical range of variability in biodiversity, ecological processes and structures, regional and historical context and sustainable cultural practices”

(Society for Ecological Restoration,

defining ecological restoration5
Defining ecological restoration
  • A “broad conceptual framework for helping ecosystems recover more nearly natural structure and function while providing for continued use by humans. For ecological restoration to proceed on sound scientific footing, it must be rooted in the best knowledge available, with carefully reasoned analysis, checked against factual evidence.”

similar terms bradshaw 1997 van diggelen et al 2001
Similar terms (Bradshaw 1997, van Diggelen et al. 2001)
  • Reclamation
    • Makes useful, but not necessarily original state
    • Typically focuses on increasing biodiversity
    • Often applied in highly disturbed sites
  • Rehabilitation
    • Reintroduces some ecosystem functions
    • Any improvement from a degraded state
  • Restoration
    • Most ambitious
    • Typically attempts to reconstruct structure, composition and function of an ecosystem
successful restoration
Successful restoration

Some of the oldest and most successful restoration projects are in prairies

Many restoration projects include restoring natural fire regimes

restoration includes bradshaw 1997 jackson et al 1995 keane and arno 2001
Restoration includes (Bradshaw 1997, Jackson et al. 1995, Keane and Arno 2001)
  • Assess need for action
    • Inventory and describe
    • Consider humans in an integrated ecological approach
  • Identify goals and objectives
  • Prioritize
  • Design and implement treatments
  • Monitor and evaluate success
  • Maintain
  • Use adaptive management
choosing references white and walker 1997 landres et al 1999 stephenson 1999
Choosing references (White and Walker 1997, Landres et al. 1999, Stephenson 1999)
  • References are used in judging when restoration is successful
  • References can be existing conditions in healthy ecosystems, or they may be inferred from historical information and models
  • Historical composition, structure, and disturbance regimes should be guides rather than goals
assumptions http www ies wisc edu cre
Assumptions ( )
  • We can recreate historical conditions
  • The physical environment can be manipulated to support the desired plants and animals.
  • Inadequate substrate can be manipulated to sustain native biota.
  • The desired biota (plants & animals) will establish if selected plant species are introduced.
  • Reestablishing natural disturbance regimes is critical to long-term sustainability
  • Stephenson (1999) contrasted two:
    • Structure first, then process
    • Process first, then structure
  • Most people implement a hybrid of the two approaches
opportunities http www ies wisc edu cre
Opportunities (
  • Produce native seed
  • Support local business and communities with small-scale logging
  • Promote as ecotourism
  • Sequester carbon
challenges http www ies wisc edu cre
Challenges (
  • Fragmented landscapes are dominated by humans
  • Land use restrictions can affect taxes, income generation, and public support
  • Requires interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Long-term maintenance
  • Gaining public support for fire and other restoration programs
  • Most restoration efforts are small and site-specific
  • Many restoration needs are broader (cover large areas) and long-term
factors affecting success adapted from jackson et al 1995
Factors affecting success (Adapted from Jackson et al. 1995)


Social commitment

Narrowly anthropocentric





Good, with little damage

Rich data and expertise


Poor, with irreversible damage

Data and knowledge

Ecological circumstances

literature cited
Literature cited

Center for restoration ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Available [Online] < > October 2, 2001.

Ecological restoration institute, Northern Arizona University. Available [Online] < >October 2, 2001.

Jackson, L.L., N. Lopoukhine, D. Hillyard. 1995. Ecological restoration: A definition and comments. Restoration Ecology 3(2): 71-75.

Society for Ecological Restoration. 1996. Definition of ecological restoration. Available [Online] <> October 2, 2001.

Stephenson, N.L. 1999. Reference conditions for giant sequoia forest restoration: structure, process and precision. Ecological Applications 994): 1253-1265.

Van Diggelen, R., Ab P. Grootjans and J. A. Harris. 2001. Ecological restoration: state of the art or state of the science? Restoration Ecology 9 (2):115-118.

White, P. S., and J. L. Walker. 1997. Approximating nature’s variation: selecting and using reference information in restoration ecology. Restoration Ecology 5:338-349.