Restoration fundamentals

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The following is a modified version of discussions on the ECOLOG-L discussion list (with contributions by Wayne Tyson and Eric Branton). It summarizes the fundamentals of a successful restoration programme.

Design and implement the required restoration actions
Step 1: Assess current ecosystem condition (structure and processes)
Step 2: Describe and agree on desired future/restored ecosystem condition.
Step 3: Define and agree on actions needed to reach desired condition (taking into account feasibility, reliability and costs of the proposed actions).
Step 4: Take bold but safe-to-fail actions (i.e. taking a “what-if” approach).

Put adaptive management in place
Step 5: Monitor and evaluate results from desired ecosystem condition perspective.
Step 6: Modify actions and/or expectations in light of results.
Step 7: Continue with revised actions and monitoring.

Note that conditions to be evaluated should include processes (population fluctuations, properly functioning soil microbial communities, forest succession) as well as the components (species present, habitat types and proportions). This prevents a project site from being considered “restored” the second the last native grass has been planted.

Defining desired ecosystem condition may be the most challenging step: Do we want a pristine, zero human disturbance condition? E.g., a mature mixed conifer-deciduous woodland cycled with infrequent wildfires and no management of invasive species. Do we want a slightly human-controlled condition? E.g., a mature mixed conifer-deciduous woodland preserved through fire prevention and some management of invasives. Do we want a slightly more human-managed condition? E.g., oak savannahs maintained by periodic controlled burns, conifer removals and intensive invasive species removals.

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