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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Using Ecological Theory to Manage Or Restore Ecosystems Affected by Invasive Plant Species

Authors
item D Antonio, Carla
item Chambers, Jeanne - USDA, FOREST SERVICE

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: November 1, 2004
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: This book chapter is a contribution to a textbook on restoration ecology. Restoration ecology as a field has been criticized as being more of an art than a science due to the lack of quantitative experimentation by many practitioners and the lack of interaction between the basic ecological community and restoration practitioners. This book is designed to provide a conceptual foundation, based in ecological theory, for approaches to restoration ecology. Our chapter specifically deals with how ecological theory can guide approaches to the management and restoration of systems affected by invasive plants. The widespread degradation of ecosystems around the globe has necessitated implementation of a range of restoration or rehabilitation practices to restore valued ecosystem functions. Invasive non-native plants can contribute directly to the loss of ecosystem services, or they can increase in response to environmental change and thereafter interfere with the achievement of restoration goals. While invasive plants have been the focus of control efforts in agriculture for decades, it is only in the past twenty years that they have been recognized as a significant economic and ecological cost to management and restoration of less managed ecosystems.

Technical Abstract: The widespread degradation of ecosystems around the globe has necessitated implementation of a range of restoration or rehabilitation practices to restore valued ecosystem functions. Invasive non-native plants can contribute directly to the loss of ecosystem services, or they can increase in response to environmental change and thereafter interfere with the achievement of restoration goals. While invasive plants have been the focus of control efforts in agriculture for decades, it is only in the past twenty years that they have been recognized as a significant economic and ecological cost to management and restoration of less managed ecosystems. Because of the various ways that introduced plant species can interfere with management goals, we discuss different types of management and restoration actions designed to deal with the threat or impact of such invaders. The Society for Ecological Restoration International (SERI) defines ecological restoration as the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed. Here we implicitly acknowledge that, management actions, or lack thereof prior to obvious ecosystem degradation influence ecosystem trajectories and the likelihood of successful plant invasions. The type of management or restoration action employed will depend on the state of degradation of the ecosystem and the causes of degradation. If the system is still providing valued ecosystem functions, preventive management may be used to reduce the likelihood of invasion by damaging species. If the ecosystem has already been invaded by species that might hinder achievement of management goals and is at risk of further degradation, removal of problematic species is an essential step towards restoration. By itself, however, removal may not be enough and further actions may be necessary to achieve ecological restoration. Here we discuss ecological theories that provide a foundation for approaching both preventative management and ecological restoration.

Last Modified: 9/20/2014
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