| tags: [ knowing-doing gap restoration theory practice goals ] categories: [reading ]

Matzek et al (2017) Emerging approaches to successful ecologicall restoration

Matzek, V., Gornish, E. S., Hulvey, K. B. (2017) Emerging approaches to successful ecological restoration: five imperatives to guide innovation (eds E. Gornish, V. Matzek, & K. Hulvey). Restoration Ecology. 25, S110–S113.

New techniques, approaches, and technologies are emerging and being applied in habitat restoration. This is because restoration goals are shifting towards resilience and dynamism, and because the need for efficient resource use is of increasing concern.

The paper serves as an introduction / review to the special issue of the journal. It argues that restoration goals should be determined by managers. It is the role of analysts and scientists to know and accept these goals, and to focus on questions of what is the best way to reach these goals? The paper argues that development of new approaches / techniques should obey the following five imperatives:

  1. driven by ecological theory
  2. harness technological advances
  3. reject dogma
  4. encourage self-critique
  5. respect stakeholder and practitioner limitations

Takeaways and thoughts…

  1. Restoration approaches grounded in ecological theory are more likely to result in emergent techniques / approaches that are successful, or better at meeting restoration objectives. (E.g.; priority effects when seeding native grasses and forbs, Young et al. 2017; and restoration islands / nucleation for dryland restoration, Hulvey et al. 2017). The authors don’t really test this assumption, though.

  2. New technological tools and advances in computing power should be harnessed. Models can be used to generate new knowledge and consequently better inform practice (Cordell et al. 2017) by improving causal models of the system. Using models to inform practice can result in vastly better restoration outcomes, and highlight the frailty of expert judgment (Butterfield et al. 2017).

  3. Deconstructing failures, e.g. through retrospective analyses and the application of new tools to old decisions (e.g. testing / applying tool to novel i.e. old contexts) can improve the evidence base, not just around which techniques and approaches are successful… but demonstrate the importance of setting realistic and achievable restoration objectives.

Linking this to reproducible decision-making / robust conservation decisions:

  • Studies that focus on building the evidence base around new approaches should be ground in theory and potentially result in restoration outcomes that better meet objectives [than those that don’t].
  • This is a half-formed thought connection… imperative 4 reminds me of the Hobbs paper on ‘making the most of failure’… but also of some stuff I’ve come across in the reproducibility literature, that talks of heavy bias in the literature towards ‘successful’ studies.

Papers to follow up: