Virtual Issue: Ecological Restoration

Edited by Jeremy James
August 2015

Over the last several decades, the critical role that ecosystem restoration plays in mitigating environmental change, increasing food security, and improving political and economic stability has been cemented in numerous national and international agreements, policies, and programs. Meeting this global restoration need, however, is widely viewed as one of the most long-standing and immense challenges of our time. The research, practice and outcomes of ecological restoration have long been viewed as salient tests of our understanding of how ecological systems work. While our understanding of how ecological communities assemble, function and respond to perturbations has gradually progressed over the last several decades, in many cases this increased knowledge has not been readily incorporated into restoration practices or resulted in improved restoration outcomes. 

The barriers that prevent new ecological knowledge from being adopted into new practices that improve restoration outcomes are numerous and complex. The Journal of Applied Ecology has had a long history of publishing leading ideas that address these barriers. In recognition of the Society for Ecological Restoration’s 2015 World Conference and in support of shared goals that ultimately aim to slow and reverse ecosystem degradation across the globe, the Journal of Applied Ecology has compiled a Virtual Issue on 20 key papers, published in the journal over the last three years, specifically aimed at improving our ability to predict and manage restoration outcomes and overcome adoption barriers to ecosystem restoration.

Broadly, this Virtual Issue is organized in four themes. The first theme, “Testing and advancing ecological theory to improve restoration outcomes” centres on the long standing effort to use restoration challenges as opportunities to test and improve our understanding of ecology and translate basic ecological understanding into applied practices that solve critical issues. The second theme, “Integrating knowledge into practice”, explores pathways to overcome multiple barriers that constrain application of existing and new information including how information is accessed and where knowledge is derived, how managers and researchers can jointly identify key knowledge gaps, and how managers and researchers can cooperatively work towards understanding how to most effectively put new knowledge into practice. The last two themes examine specific opportunities to optimize how restoration knowledge is put into practice including use of limited restoration resources and improving understanding of restoration cost and benefits. Specifically, theme three, “Prioritizing management efforts”, examines how to optimize the spatial and temporal allocation of restoration resources and how uncertainty can be addressed in the management decision making process while, theme four, “Effects of restoration on ecosystem services”, explores recovery of market and non-market ecosystem services following restoration, how net benefits can be quantified, as well as how potential trade-offs between services should be considered.

The papers organized under this Virtual Issue reflect only a small portion of the vigorous work pursued by researchers, practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders over the last several years and only touch on the enormous work ahead if we are to reach even a fraction of our restoration goals over the coming decades. The key concepts highlighted in the themes of this Virtual Issue, however, can give us great hope that partnerships between scientists and practitioners are increasingly improving knowledge exploration in this field and making major headway in overcoming restoration barriers. Some specific indicators include the greater focus and institutional value of measuring applied impact of ecological work and clearer recognition of how qualitative information and tacit knowledge, often derived from site specific management experience can help advance the larger field of restoration ecology. In addition, the increasing emphasis that government agencies and non-profit groups are placing on quantifying the benefits of various conservation and restoration practices represent clear opportunities where researcher/practitioner partnerships can test and refine our ecological understanding at large spatial and temporal scales and ultimately identify pathways to improve restoration outcomes and increase adoption of effective restoration practices. 

Testing and advancing ecological theory to improve restoration outcomes


Nurse-based restoration of degraded tropical forests with tussock grasses: experimental support from the Andean cloud forest
Anthelme, Fabien; Gomez-Aparicio, Lorena; Montufar, Rommel

Identifying pathways for managing multiple disturbances to limit plant invasions
Tanentzap, Andrew J.; Lee, William G.; Monks, Adrian; Ladley, Kate; Johnson, Peter N.; Rogers, Geoffrey M.; Comrie, Joy M.; Clarke, Dean A.; Hayman, Ella

A test of the umbrella species approach in restored floodplain ponds
Branton, Margaret A.; Richardson, John S.

Patterns of contemporary gene flow suggest low functional connectivity of grasslands in a fragmented agricultural landscape
Aavik, Tsipe; Holderegger, Rolf; Edwards, Peter J.; Billeter, Regula

Using filter-based community assembly models to improve restoration outcomes
Hulvey, Kristin B.; Aigner, Paul A.

Integrating knowledge into practice

A systems approach to restoring degraded drylands
James, Jeremy J.; Sheley, Roger L.; Erickson, Todd; Rollins, Kim S.; Taylor, Michael H.; Dixon, Kingsley W.

Bridging the gap between applied ecological science and practical implementation in peatland restoration
Anderson, Penny

Bridging the knowing-doing gap: know-who, know-what, know-why, know-how and know-when
Hulme, Philip E.

Carnivore conservation in practice: replicated management actions on a large spatial scale
Angerbjörn, Anders; Eide, Nina E.; Dalén, Love; Elmhagen, Bodil; Hellström, Peter ; Ims, Rolf A.; Killengreen, Siw; Landa, Arild; Meijer, Tomas; Mela, Matti; Niemimaa, Jukka; Norén, Karin; Tannerfeldt, Magnus; Yoccoz, Nigel G.; Henttonen, Heikki

Seedling establishment in a dynamic sedimentary environment: a conceptual framework using mangroves
Balke, Thorsten; Webb, Edward L.; van den Elzen, Eva; Galli, Demis; Herman, Peter M. J.; Bouma, Tjeerd J.

Prioritizing management efforts

A landscape triage approach: combining spatial and temporal dynamics to prioritize restoration and conservation
Rappaport, Danielle I.; Tambosi, Leandro R.; Metzger, Jean P.

Prioritizing barrier removal to improve functional connectivity of rivers
Branco, Paulo; Segurado, Pedro; Santos, Jose M.; Ferreira, Maria T.

Confronting contingency in restoration: management and site history determine outcomes of assembling prairies, but site characteristics and landscape context have little effect
Grman, Emily; Bassett, Tyler; Brudvig, Lars A.

Functional diversity in a large river floodplain: anticipating the response of native and alien macroinvertebrates to the restoration of hydrological connectivity
Paillex, Amael; Doledec, Sylvain; Castella, Emmanuel; Merigoux, Sylvie; Aldridge, David C.

Classic paradigms in a novel environment: inserting food web and productivity lessons from rocky shores and saltmarshes into biogenic reef restoration
Fodrie, F. Joel; Rodriguez, Antonio B.; Baillie, Christopher J.; Brodeur, Michelle C.; Coleman, Sara E.; Gittman, Rachel K.; Keller, Danielle A.; Kenworthy, Matthew D.; Poray, Abigail K.; Ridge, Justin T.; Theuerkauf, Ethan J.; Lindquist, Niels. L.

Effects of restoration on ecosystem services

Evaluating ecosystem goods and services after restoration of marginal upland peatlands in South-West England
Grand-Clement, Emilie; Anderson, Karen; Smith, David; Luscombe, David; Gatis, Naomi; Ross, Martin; Brazier, Richard E.

Can restoration of afforested peatland regulate pests and disease?
Gilbert, Lucy

Does it make economic sense to restore rivers for their ecosystem services?
Acuna, Vicenc; Ramon Diez, Jose; Flores, Lorea; Meleason, Mark; Elosegi, Arturo

Assessing the CO2 capture potential of seagrass restoration projects
Duarte, Carlos M.; Sintes, Tomas; Marba, Nuria

Exploring restoration options for habitats, species and ecosystem services in the European Union
Egoh, Benis N.; Paracchini, Maria L.; Zulian, Grazia; Schaegner, Jan Philipp; Bidoglio, Giovanni







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