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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Forage and Range Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #340880

Research Project: Develop Improved Plant Genetic Resources to Enhance Pasture and Rangeland Productivity in the Semiarid Regions of the Western U.S.

Location: Forage and Range Research

Title: Ecosystem restoration: recent advances in theory and practice

item Jones, Thomas

Submitted to: The Rangeland Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/20/2017
Publication Date: 8/30/2017
Citation: Jones, T.A. 2017. Restoration theory and practice. The Rangeland Journal. 39:417-430.

Interpretive Summary: Ecosystem disturbance will inevitably exacerbate as human populations rise, thus restoration efforts must become more effective to sustain healthy ecosystems worldwide. Ecological restoration is still a young field, but a greater variety of options is being considered than in the past as more intractable environmental problems are being addressed. An improved understanding of plant traits, function, and adaptation; secondary succession; soil ecology; and plant evolution and provenance contributing to more effective restoration practice.

Technical Abstract: Restoration of damaged ecosystems is receiving increasing attention worldwide as awareness increases that humanity must sustain ecosystem structure, function, and diversity for its own well-being. Restoration will become increasingly important because our planet will sustain an increasingly heavy human footprint as human populations continue to be very large. 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, to debate whether the more damaged lands are worthy of restoration efforts given limited financial resources, and to disagreement as to whether the novel ecosystem concept is a help or a hindrance to the restoration cause. 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 prominant 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, soil biocrusts, and water quality is evident. In the United States, restoration projects are becoming increasingly motivated by or tied to remediation of major environemntal problems or recovery of fauna that are either charismatic, e.g., the monarch butterfly, or deliver key ecosystem services, e.g., hymenopteran pollinators.