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Year : 2006  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 493-495

Restoration Ecology: The New Frontier

Nature Conservation Foundation, 3076/5, IV Cross, Gokulam Park, Mysore 570002, India

Correspondence Address:
T R Shankar Raman
Rainforest Restoration Research Station, 8/364 Cooperative Colony, Valparai 642 127, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Date of Web Publication26-Jun-2009

How to cite this article:
Shankar Raman T R. Restoration Ecology: The New Frontier. Conservat Soc 2006;4:493-5

How to cite this URL:
Shankar Raman T R. Restoration Ecology: The New Frontier. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2006 [cited 2022 May 16];4:493-5. Available from: https://www.conservationandsociety.org.in//text.asp?2006/4/3/493/55804

Jelte van Andel and James Aronson, (eds.), Restoration Ecology: The New Frontier, Malden, Blackwell Publishing, USA, 2006, 319 pages, £32.50. ISBN: 0-632-05834-X.

Restoration ecology is a rapidly growing science of immense practical importance in today's changing world. Evidenced by an explosion of publications, internet resources, position papers, and on-ground endeavours, this is a field of work that needs timely syntheses of experiences in order to inform, guide, and influence the science and practice of restoration. The book under review attempts this by bringing together 19 expert scientists and practitioners from Europe to present a state-of-the-art overview of restoration efforts in a wide range of European ecosystems. The book targets a readership of masters- and doctoral-level students, teachers, researchers, and nature managers.

Although the focus on European experiences is a major limitation of the book that also aims 'to address a much larger, global audience', this is to a fair extent overshadowed by three positive features. First, the book is organised in four parts, three of which address more general issues to introduce restoration ecology (Part 1, in two chapters), describe the ecological foundations emerging from the fields of landscape, ecosystem, community, and population ecology (Part 2, five chapters), and outline the challenges for the future of the science and practice of restoration (Part 4, two chapters). Second, the description of restoration efforts and case studies (Part 3, eight chapters occupying more than half the volume) covers an impressive diversity of ecosystems, with similar counterparts in other regions of the world. This includes dry grasslands and heathlands, mires and wet grasslands, temperate forests and Mediterranean woodlands, rivers and floodplains, freshwater lakes, intertidal flats and tidal salt marshes, and alpine ecosystems. Finally, the bibliography in the book provides an excellent compendium of literature relevant to restoration (over 1,200 citations) up to the year of publication, although this is again biased toward European publications.

The introduction to the significance of restoration ecology and the basic concepts involved (Part 1) form an informative opening to the volume. The evident need for restoration is compelling in today's world as many degraded areas, particularly in fragmented and altered landscapes, are in a state of arrested succession or degradation and unlikely to recover to pre-disturbance levels even if left alone and strictly protected. The different viewpoints of nature, (the wilderness, arcadian and functional concepts) and the setting of targets or historical reference ecosystems, which (should) underlie most restoration efforts are well explained in these chapters. The authors also lay an emphasis on assessing the value of original and restored ecosystems for society and outline the need to develop and use indicators to monitor restoration success. The latter aspect, given its importance, could have received more attention in the opening chapters with illustrative examples.

Restoration of degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems is often carried out over restricted spatial or temporal scales at localised sites. This is partly because restoration tends to be expensive, time-consuming, and labourintensive. Nevertheless, it is important not to lose sight of wider issues of landscape-level influences on restoration sites (Rudy van Diggelen), as well as interactions across trophic levels in ecosystems (predation, herbivory, trophic cascades), among species in communities (dispersal, mutualisms), and within species metapopulations (chapters by Jelte van Endel). The basic principles underlying this wider perspective of restoration form the second part of the book. This provides useful pointers to readers and restoration practitioners to determine what to restore and how to monitor restoration, although the particular species, landscape element, or interaction will often be site-specific. This section also includes a well-written and useful chapter (Sipke van Wieren) on population re-introductions. A missing aspect, on which there is perhaps little research and information, is the role of behavioural change and modification in animal restorations and re-introductions.

The section on restoration of diverse ecosystems is the most informative and useful part of this book, even to experienced restoration ecologists and practitioners. A particularly commendable feature of the individual chapters is the initial historical and ecological overview of the different threats and impacts on each ecosystem; a holistic understanding of this is essential for any on-ground restoration project to succeed and this is brought out well. A diversity of restoration approaches are presented ranging from relatively passive ones such as steps to prevent forces of degradation (such as cessation of grazing in terrestrial ecosystems, reduction of nutrient inputs into aquatic ecosystems, facilitation of natural regeneration) to active interventions. Remeandering of rivers, seeding, mulching, planting of target species, changing physical attributes of the landscape to prevent erosion and runoff, fertilizing, de-embankments, and a whole range of other steps is indicated, although some chapters tend to provide details on principles and fall short on practical aspects. The chapters also highlight key issues such as micro-site selection, seed and seedling quality, nurse plants, soil quality, salinity, and sedimentation. In a few cases, there is mention of conflicts with other components of biological diversity emerging from the choice of specific restoration targets as well as potential conflicts with other societal or developmental goals, although these deserve greater attention.

The final chapters on the challenges for ecological theory and the practice of restoration, although valuable, seem somewhat inadequate and disappointing, except for the discussion and emphasis on the idea of 'emerging ecosystems'. There is certainly more that the field has to offer. In fact, among the eight 'hot topics' identified seven are primarily ecosystem-level issues, when there are major aspects at other levels of organisation from individual ecophysiology, populations and landscapes, to economy and society, begging for attention. The role of invasive species in ecological restoration, community ecology and evolution, and in emerging ecosystems is another prime area for research and application.

Although the book is likely to become a standard reference for restoration ecology, future editions or possible successor volumes would do well to include other aspects within chapters or as separate chapters thereby adding greater value. This includes aspects such as an overview of principles and methods to prioritise sites for restoration in modern landscapes, the economic costs of restoration and sourcing of funds, measurement of ecosystem services and benefits of restored ecosystems, and the development of biological benchmarks that can guide incentive programmes that attempt to involve land agencies, corporations, and civil society groups. It would also be useful to include a glossary-the perhaps unavoidable entry of technical terms and jargon into individual chapters would not then pose hindrances to a full understanding for students and general readers. In all, this book will be a valuable addition to the collections of institutions and individuals concerned with nature conservation and restoration. Taking a tropical, developing country perspective, one question arises naturally after reading the book: when will we have an urgently needed book of this sort for tropical ecosystems?


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