Text by Aveliina Helm
Habitat restoration needs to take recent scientific advances into account
The involvement of ecological theory in practical habitat restoration has significantly increased in the past decade. However, there are still visible gaps between the advancing theoretical ecology and current practical approaches of habitat restoration. Insufficient knowledge flow between theoretical ecologists, restoration ecologists and practitioners does not allow to take full advantage of advancing ecological theory in restoration, possibly leading also to less successful restoration projects. Similarly, improved communication between restoration practitioners and theoretical ecologists can benefit ecological theory as restoration projects often offer great opportunities for testing theoretical approaches in the field. In this paper, we bridge these gaps between theory and practice by linking recent developments in plant ecology with the main questions every restoration practitioner should ask. We discuss ecological theories that 1) help to identify target species and baseline conditions in restoration; 2) allow to understand when one can count on spontaneous recovery and when are additional efforts required for facilitating dispersal of species; 3) are useful for determining factors that needs to be taken into account for successful establishment of target species; and 4) enable to estimate time-scale needed to consider for the evaluation of restoration success.
Recent advances in ecology that help to answer these questions involve species pool theory, landscape-scale dispersal patterns, species assembly rules and temporal delays in response to environmental disturbance (extinction debt and colonisation credit).
Citation: Török, P., & Helm, A. (2017). Ecological theory provides strong support for habitat restoration. Biological Conservation, 206, 85-91. (link to full text)
The involvement of ecological theory in habitat restoration has significantly increased in the past decade. However, despite the fact that the field of restoration ecology has grown academically strong in recent years, there are still visible gaps between the advancing discipline of theoretical ecology and current approaches of habitat restoration. We propose bridging these gaps by linking recent developments in theoretical plant ecology with the main questions every restoration practitioner should ask, namely: Q1) How to identify target species and baseline conditions for restoration of the selected habitat?; Q2) When can one count on spontaneous dispersal and when are additional efforts required for facilitating dispersal of desired species?; Q3) Which factors determine the successful establishment of target species and assembly of target communities?; and Q4) What time-scale needs to be considered for the evaluation of species colonisation and restoration success? Knowledge and experience accumulated in practical restoration can considerably benefit theoretical ecology for example by improving the understanding on (i) temporal changes in community, (ii) species assembly, (iii) species dispersal and establishment and (iv) landscape-scale dynamics of biodiversity. We emphasise that to improve joint thinking of practical restoration and theoretical ecology, restoration-problem-driven theoretical research is necessary. We suggest either (i) to translate and link the current findings of theoretical ecology to restoration strategies; and/or (ii) to summarise practical restoration needs by formulation of questions and testable hypotheses based on theory.