Developing a conceptual framework for restoring ecological function through rewilding: The Guam case study

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Hugo Thierry

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Rewilding has emerged as an approach aiming at restoring extirpated functions through the introduction of locally-extinct or analogous species. While most efforts focus on the long-term survival of introduced species, little focus is done on aiming to optimize functional restoration spatially across ecosystems, which is essential for the ecological success of such ambitious projects. We use the island of Guam as an ongoing example of a potential rewilding project, which has seen all its native seed dispersers functionally or completely extirpated by the invasive brown treesnake (Boiga irregularis). The absence of seed dispersers is linked to reductions in species diversity and changes in native forest structure, as well as slowed regeneration of degraded forest. Stakeholders aim at rewilding the island with the Micronesian starling (Aplonis opaca), an effective seed disperser with a remnant population still on the island. Using the case study, we developed the “Spatial planning of rewilding efforts’ (SPORE) framework, combining spatially-explicit ecological models, spatial data, economics, and participatory approaches to identify effective management scenarios for functional restoration. This framework allowed us to identify (i) areas to prioritize for functional restoration to restore the native forests of Guam, (ii) potential costs of controlling the brown treesnake in these areas to allow for the rewilding of the Micronesian starling in regard to all possible management combinations, and (iii) conservation priorities of the different stakeholders and local actors through a participatory approach. By its flexible nature, the Spore framework could successfully be applied in a wide range of systems.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program

Society for Ecological Restoration