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Oct 1, 2011

What is Ecological Restoration?

"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." - Aldo Leopold

Definition of Ecological Restoration: Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.

Attributes of a Restored Ecosystem
1. The restored ecosystem contains a characteristic assemblage of the species that occur in the reference ecosystem and that provide appropriate community structure.
2. The restored ecosystem consists of indigenous species to the greatest practicable extent. In restored cultural ecosystems, allowances can be made for exotic domesticated species and for non-invasive ruderal and segetal species that presumably co-evolved with them. Ruderals are plants that colonize disturbed sites, whereas segetals typically grow intermixed with crop species.
3. All functional groups necessary for the continued development and/or stability of the restored ecosystem are represented or, if they are not, the missing groups have the potential to colonize by natural means.
4. The physical environment of the restored ecosystem is capable of sustaining reproducing populations of the species necessary for its continued stability or development along the desired trajectory.
5. The restored ecosystem apparently functions normally for its ecological stage of development, and signs of dysfunction are absent.
6. The restored ecosystem is suitably integrated into a larger ecological matrix or landscape, with which it interacts through abiotic and biotic flows and exchanges.
7. Potential threats to the health and integrity of the restored ecosystem from the surrounding landscape have been eliminated or reduced as much as possible.
8. The restored ecosystem is sufficiently resilient to endure the normal periodic stress events in the local environment that serve to maintain the integrity of the ecosystem.
9. The restored ecosystem is self-sustaining to the same degree as its reference ecosystem, and has the potential to persist indefinitely under existing environmental conditions. Nevertheless, aspects of its biodiversity, structure and functioning may change as part of normal ecosystem development, and may fluctuate in response to normal periodic stress and occasional disturbance events of greater consequence. As in any intact ecosystem, the species composition and other attributes of a restored ecosystem may evolve as environmental conditions change.

-Society for Restoration Ecology International

Information about UW-REN: http://depts.washington.edu/uwren/