The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Ecosystem restoration: recent advances in theory and practice

T. A. Jones
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

Forage and Range Research Laboratory, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-6300, USA. Email: thomas.jones@ars.usda.gov

The Rangeland Journal - https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17024
Submitted: 1 April 2017  Accepted: 20 July 2017   Published online: 30 August 2017

Abstract

Restoration of damaged ecosystems is receiving increasing attention worldwide as awareness increases that humanity must sustain ecosystem structure, functioning, and diversity for its own wellbeing. Restoration will become increasingly important because our planet will sustain an increasingly heavy human footprint as human populations continue to increase. Restoration efforts can improve desirable ecological functioning, even when restoration to a historic standard is not feasible with current practice. Debate as to whether restoration is feasible is coupled to long-standing disputes regarding the definition of restoration, whether more-damaged lands are worthy of restoration efforts given limited financial resources, and ongoing conflicts as to whether the novel ecosystem concept is a help or a hindrance to restoration efforts. A willingness to consider restoration options that have promise, yet would have previously been regarded as ‘taboo’ based on the precautionary principle, is increasing. Functional restoration is becoming more prominent in the scientific literature, as evidenced by an increased emphasis on functional traits, as opposed to a simple inventory of vascular plant species. Biodiversity continues to be important, but an increasingly expansive array of provenance options that are less stringent than the traditional ‘local is best’ is now being considered. Increased appreciation for soil health, plant–soil feedbacks, biological crusts, and water quality is evident. In the United States, restoration projects are becoming increasingly motivated by or tied to remediation of major environmental problems or recovery of fauna that are either charismatic, for example, the monarch butterfly, or deliver key ecosystem services, for example, hymenopteran pollinators.

Additional keywords: ecosystem functions, natural selection, plant adaptation, plant restoration, seed dispersal, soil ecology.


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