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Successful ecological restoration must meet more robust standards

May 18, 2015 – In a succession of international agreements, most recently the 2014 U.N. Climate Summit, governments worldwide have pledged to restore degraded ecosystems to address climate change.

“In spite of this clear consensus, there have been no clear standards or protocols that managers can use,” said Chris Anderson, a socioecologist at the Austral Center for Scientific Research in Argentina, an adjunct professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, and co-author of a study published in Science this month.

In the article, experts in ecology, economics, law, political science, geography, and philosophy outline “four core principles of scientifically based, workable, and comprehensive restoration that can provide appropriate best practice guidelines in legal, policy, and planning efforts.”

To maximize such benefits as conserved biodiversity and sustained livelihoods, ecological restoration should increase ecological integrity, be sustainable in the long term, be informed by the past and future, and benefit and engage society. Adherence to these principles will add clarity, accountability, and accomplishment in this new era of embracing ecological restoration as an environmental policy tool, the experts write.

“Initiatives that emphasize one principle over the full suite are not true restoration — and therefore are insufficient to address restoration goals,” said Katharine Suding, a community ecologist at the University of Colorado and lead author of the paper.

It will be tempting to consider specialized projects that emphasize one principle rather than attending to the full suite of potential opportunities, the authors warn. “Degraded lands could be converted to carbon farms, where monocultures of fast-growing tree species are planted and managed to optimize carbon sequestration. Green infrastructure could provide vegetation that fixes carbon and increases permeable surfaces.”  (continue reading.....)

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