The Future of Ecological Restoration

Ecosystems are being used unsustainably worldwide, and many are at risk of being lost forever. In many parts of the world, ecosystems are no longer providing essential services, such as food and water production, climate regulation, carbon storage, crop pollination, and wildlife habitat. But something can be done.

Ecological restoration is known as the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. However, this definition does not incorporate social aspects and public inquiry of ecosystems. Not only should restoration restore environments and ecosystems that have been destroyed by restoring certain targets, ecological restoration should also be improving social and life sciences. Currently ecological restoration includes recovering biodiversity, species composition, community structure, and ecosystem resilience, but it should also include social goals such as empowerment of local communities, and improving conservation strategies.

In order to do include both social and scientific aspects of ecological restoration a new definition is needed.

Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of a degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystem to reflect values regarded as inherent in the ecosystem and to provide goods and services that people value.”

David Martin, 2017

This definition shifts decision‐makers, scientists, and other restoration professionals to follow a structured goal setting process in which they can design their restoration policies and/or practices. This new structure forces restoration professionals to think based on values the ecosystem has, both biologically and socially (human). Using this approach, restoration professionals are encouraged to decide what they cared about first, the “why”, and then later going about doing it. By using this structured method, restoration professionals could allow their work to directly connect appeal with promise, and we may discover a more powerful goal‐setting structure for ecological restoration.

Hierarchical Structure of Ecological Restoration. Professionals should begin at the “why” (top) and work their way down to the “what” (bottom). The “why” is what they want to restore and the “what” is how to go about doing so.

Above is the hierarchal structure of how professionals should approach restoration goals. Breaking the goal‐setting process down into parts has advantages:
(1) it allows the process to be more transparent and documentable, which could control for unintended costs or restoration failures
(2) it allows for roles to be clearly defined, which could control for scientists inserting normative preferences into the process
(3) it allows for multiple potential goals and objectives, including associated ecosystem and social attributes.

The future of restoration is strong, especially if we include every community and many different factors in saving ecosystems. Although biology and science are the leading reason for restoration, every community can be involved with this new structure. This gives us promise for saving ecosystems, biodiversity and natural landscapes, as everyone will want to take part to save what they love and need.

References:
Martin, David M. “Ecological Restoration Should Be Redefined for the Twenty-First Century.” Restoration Ecology, vol. 25, no. 5, 2017, pp. 668–673., doi:10.1111/rec.12554.
“What Is Ecological Restoration.” Ecological Restoration Alliance of Botanical Gardens, 2019, http://www.erabg.org/what-is-ecological-restoration/.

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