Seeing the Forest for the Trees & the Ecosystems for the Indicators: Comparative Approaches to Measuring Restoration Outcomes

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Stephen D. Murphy

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Measuring the outcomes of restoration ecology experiments or projects depends first on clear statements of intent and objectives; surprisingly, that first step is muddled because there is a temptation to conflate long-term aspirations with short-term, often seemingly mundane achievements. If these are properly characterized, deciding if the measures should be qualitative or quantitative is made clearer. The measures need not be complex but should be only if the intent is more ambitious. My talk will explore the qualitative and quantitative approaches to measuring outcomes and reflect upon the types of indicators used in measuring outcomes such as qualitative analyses for assessing policy impacts and stakeholder feedback, proxy variables centered on resilience, the legacy of p-hacking, taxon-based measures, measures of ecosystem attributes, measures of alternative stable states, effect size vs. endpoint measures, and measures of large-scale change. The intent will be to explore how each of these categories of measures of outcomes arises from conceptual and theoretical frameworks and how they have been used or perhaps misused. Each will have a case example to illustrate; any examples showing misuse will focus on my own errors as one can learn a lot from failure or at least misguided approaches just as much as one may learn from success. The talk will conclude with reference to united efforts across not only restoration project managers but across scientific publications and societies to raise the bar on how one measures outcomes and constitutes acceptably rigorous evidence.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program