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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Monitoring Ecological Processes for Restoration Projects

Authors
item Herrick, Jeffrey
item Schuman, Gerald
item Rango, Albert

Submitted to: Nature Conservancy
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 10, 2006
Publication Date: September 1, 2006
Citation: Herrick, J.E., Schuman, G.E., Rango, A. 2006. Monitoring ecological processes for restoration projects. Journal of Nature Conservation. 14(3-4):161-171.

Interpretive Summary: This paper presents a new approach to monitoring the success of restoration projects. Most traditional approaches focus on plant cover and species composition, but long-term (up to 75 years) studies in the western United States show that short-term monitoring of plant community composition alone incorrectly predicted the failure of treatments that were ultimately successful, and the success of treatments that ultimately failed. The paper describes a system in which one or more ecological process indicators is used together with the traditional indicators. These indicators reflect changes in three fundamental ecosystem attributes on which restoration success depends: soil and site stability, hydrologic function and biotic integrity. We include a case study involving restoration of mixed grass prairie on mineland in the west-central United States.

Technical Abstract: Restoration of ecological processes is key to restoring the capacity of ecosystems to support social, economic, cultural and aesthetic values. The sustainability of the restored system also depends on processes associated with carbon, nutrient and hydrologic cycles, yet most restoration monitoring is limited to plant community composition. Our research has shown that short-term plant composition monitoring is a necessary but insufficient predictor of long-term restoration success. Long-term (up to 75 years) studies in the western United States show that short-term monitoring of plant community composition alone incorrectly predicted the failure of treatments that were ultimately successful, and the success of treatments that ultimately failed. We propose that vegetation composition monitoring be combined with one or more ecological process indicators reflecting changes in three fundamental ecosystem attributes on which restoration success depends: soil and site stability, hydrologic function and biotic integrity. These simple, rapid, plot-level indicators reflect changes in resource redistribution and vegetation structure. We include a case study involving restoration of mixed grass prairie on mineland in the west-central United States.

Last Modified: 12/28/2014