Restoration of plant-animal interactions in terrestrial ecosystems: A review synthesis

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LuĂ­sa Genes & Rodolfo Dirzo

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Species interactions are critical to biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and services, and to restoration success. However, to our knowledge, there is no systematic assessment of the restoration of species interactions through ecosystem restoration programs. Here, we synthesize the available knowledge on the restoration of plant-animal interactions (herbivory, pollination, seed dispersal and seed predation). Our aim was to assess how plant-animal are affected by restoration, how interactions affect restoration success, and whether such studies have been conducted in global biodiversity hotspots, and in global priority areas for ecological restoration. We reviewed 127 articles that have focused on ecological function recovery in habitat restoration and trophic rewilding. Seed dispersal was the most studied interaction type, followed by herbivory, pollination and seed predation. Accordingly, most trophic rewilding studies focused on seed dispersal and herbivory. Mammals was the most studied animal group, followed by birds, insects, and reptiles. Seed dispersal (p < 0.001) and pollination (p = 0.002) were significantly more prevalent in restored than in degraded sites. Although not significantly, both seed dispersal and pollination had lower response ratios in restored as compared to reference sites. Most studies were conducted in biodiversity hotspots and in priorities for ecological restoration, but a high geographic bias has left many hotspots unstudied. Future research is needed on understudied interactions (seed predation) and taxa (reptiles), and on the role of trophic complexity in restoration success. Moreover, scientists and practitioners should consider predator reintroductions as an effective top-down control that can move restored areas towards a more self-sustaining state.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021