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Knowing when (not) to attempt ecological restoration


Johnson, CR and Chabot, RH and Marzloff, MP and Wotherspoon, S, Knowing when (not) to attempt ecological restoration, Restoration Ecology, 25, (1) pp. 140-147. ISSN 1061-2971 (2016) [Letter or Note in Journal]

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Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 Society for Ecological Restoration

DOI: doi:10.1111/rec.12413


Here we argue that there are two important steps in the decision process to restore ecological system that are often ignored. First, consideration of restoration is in response to observed change in a system, but ecological systems can fluctuate widely in their normal dynamic. Thus, there is an imperative to interpret ecological change; shifts in community structure that represent "typical" fluctuations in a properly functioning ecosystem do not warrant restoration, while change associated with phase shift in the system may well demand restoration action. Second, where restoration effort is warranted, it needs to be determined whether management responses are likely to be successful within resource constraints. Where ecological change involves pronounced hysteresis, even massive effort may have little chance in effecting recovery to a preferred ecosystem state. Theory and models indicate that consideration of the characteristic length scales (CLSs) of ecological systems provides an unambiguous interpretation of ecological change, enabling differentiation of "typical" fluctuations from phase shift, and here we show that CLSs can be calculated for real communities from their speciesí dynamics, and that their behavior is as predicted from theory. We also show that for ecological systems where local interactions and forcings are well understood, validated simulation models can provide a ready means to identify hysteresis and estimate its magnitude. We conclude that there are useful tools available for ecologists to address the key questions of (1) whether restoration attempts are warranted in the first place and, if they are, (2) whether it is practical to pursue them.

Item Details

Item Type:Letter or Note in Journal
Keywords:characteristic length scale, fouling community, hysteresis, kelp bed, marine ecosystem, phase shift
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Johnson, CR (Professor Craig Johnson)
UTAS Author:Chabot, RH (Miss Rebecca Habeeb)
UTAS Author:Marzloff, MP (Dr Martin Marzloff)
UTAS Author:Wotherspoon, S (Dr Simon Wotherspoon)
ID Code:112475
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:27
Deposited By:Directorate
Deposited On:2016-11-11
Last Modified:2017-01-17

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