Ecological restoration during a time of rapid environmental change: Preparing for an uncertain, quickly approaching future

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Stuart Allison

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One of the greatest challenges facing the practice of ecological restoration in the 21st Century is the rapid pace and global scale of current and projected environmental change. There are many sources for these changes to the environment – conversion of ecosystems to other types and uses, habitat fragmentation, declines in species populations, extinctions of species, the human assisted movement of species from their original ecosystem to new ecosystems on a global scale, pollution, and global climate change. Almost all of these changes are either directly or indirectly related to continuing growth and movement of the human population. Restorationists have been aware of these changes for many years but only recently have been able to fully grasp the rapidity and scale of environmental changes. Given our current understanding of the rapidity and ubiquity of environmental change, it becomes obvious that the goals and practice of ecological restoration must change in order to accommodate the shifting conditions on the ground. Ecological restoration must be conducted with an eye to the future, planning for ways for the restored site to adapt as the environment around it changes. Restoration can help us keep up with accelerating rates of change if we: 1)maintain biodiversity, ecosystem structure, composition and function; 2)reduce the effects of disturbance and environmental stress; and 3)nurture or create refugia, redundancy and connectivity among ecosystems. Broad-based, forward looking restoration will be a vital tool as we respond to environmental change and prepare ecosystems for the future.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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