Restoring trophic cascades and the need for baselines and monitoring

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Rene Beyers

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As conservationists we aim to conserve representative and functional ecosystems across the world. However, current conservation practices are inadequate as global biodiversity continues to decline drastically. Many species are not covered by our network of protected areas. Protected areas are often too small and/or too isolated to allow for all natural processes to occur such as top-down and bottom-up regulation, movement of species, and natural disturbance. Static boundaries prevent adaptation to long-term change. These ecosystems will not persist and as a result, species continue to decline and go extinct even when protected. Rebuilding complete native food webs through the restoration of trophic interactions and habitat, as envisioned by rewilding and large-scale restoration, is needed to complement conservation. The common goal is self-sustaining and fully functional native ecosystems maintaining high levels of biodiversity. To achieve this, we need an existing reference ecosystem, or a model informed by science and local or traditional knowledge. This is the baseline or endpoint. Having a defined endpoint allows us to assess the progress of recovery, deviations in the trajectory and persistence of the system over time. It also enables us to measure resilience of an ecosystem following disturbance and guide management and active intervention where needed.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

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Society for Ecological Restoration