Perspective: The historical reference in restoration ecology: Re-defining a cornerstone concept



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Balaguer Núñez, Luis and Escudero Alcántara, Adrián and Martín Duque, José Francisco and Mola, Ignacio and Aronson, James (2014) Perspective: The historical reference in restoration ecology: Re-defining a cornerstone concept. Biological conservation, 176 . pp. 12-20. ISSN 0006-3207

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Ecological restoration aims to revitalize ecosystem integrity and functionality following severe damage or degradation. Often, however, efforts are hampered by an incomplete or flawed concept of historical ‘reference’ used when choosing or constructing a target ecosystem or landscape to restore ‘to’. This problem may stem from a culturally-skewed interpretation of history or from misunderstanding or underestimation of the role that humans have played in a given ecosystem’s historical development and dynamics. While strongly confirming the importance of the reference concept in restoration ecology, we argue for the need to refine it, and to broaden the ways it can be conceived, developed, and applied. Firstly, the historical reference system informing a given restoration project should be grounded in both latent and active ‘ecological memories’, encoded and stored across relevant geographical and temporal scales. Further, the generally neglected geomorphic component of reference-building should also be addressed, as well as the contributions of human cultures to current ecosystem and landscape condition. Thirdly, ecosystems are historically contingent and multi-layered. Pre-versus post-disturbance comparisons are insufficient. Instead, restoration scenarios should be seen as tapestries of multiple and successive states. In sum, a well-conceived reference model helps promote and ensure the recovery and subsequent maintenance of historical continuity, i.e., the reestablishment of an impaired ecosystem to its historic ecological trajectory. We use case studies from pain and Peru to illustrate how this approach can provide better goalposts and benchmarks, and therefore better guide the planning, implementation, and evaluation of effective restoration projects.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ecological memory; Ecosystem trajectory Geoarchaeology; Geomorphological reference; Historical continuity; Sequential reference model
Subjects:Sciences > Geology
Medical sciences > Biology > Ecology
ID Code:58088
Deposited On:13 Dec 2019 12:25
Last Modified:16 Dec 2019 09:00

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