In the field, species identification can be both frustrating and rewarding. Plant traits can be hard to decipher without specialized equipment and identification keys can often seem like they are written in cryptic code. This is especially true if plant identification takes place outside of the flowering period. Whether a plant is species A or species B, whether it has compound palmate leaves or a fused stamen, whether it is a keystone species or it is functionally redundant, are all intellectually interesting questions. Yet, when the practice of identification moves from an intellectual pursuit to part of the processes of commodifying wetlands, of complying with regulations and legal mandates, of marketing and corporate social responsibility, it becomes political. At that moment, the practice of plant identification is subsumed within a larger and dialectically bound set of biogeochemical, social, political, and economic processes. Socioecological complexity, it turns out, is quite a bit more complicated than it is currently theorized.
Ecological Restoration as a scientific and political project must become a fundamental part of future environmental and developmental policy. If we are to even begin to think about “saving the environment,” or slowing down the “great extinction spasm” and mitigating climate change, not only must we make this century the era of (socio)ecological intervention, we must do it so at the scales, both temporal and spatial, that can then serve as a threshold for a necessary state shift in the global socioecological system. But this necessary scaling up of ecological restoration can only be accomplished, in the current political economic environment, by private financing via marketization of ecosystem services and/or corporate social responsibility, or through state, federal, and international mechanisms that create liabilities and force compliance. Questions involving the origins and the influence of funding in shaping restoration goals are then crucial for understanding the practice and science of ecological restoration and how we judge success. Because social and economic objectives are becoming increasingly important to funding, management, and political/social acceptance of restoration projects, understanding social, economic and political processes must become part of the field of restoration ecology.
Restoration ecology arose in opposition to and only makes sense within the current logic of landscape discipline (i.e the current ways we organize nature). Maybe the goal should be to make restoration ecology irrelevant by reaching the critical scales at which new organizational thresholds appear. I’m ready to try, how about you?
A list of 10 papers:
Coase, R. H. 1960. The Problem of Social Cost. Journal of Law and Economics 3:1-44.
Costanza, R., R. d'Arge, R. de Groot, S. Farber, M. Grasso, B. Hannon, K. Limburg, S. Naeem, R. V. O'Neil, J. Paruelo, R. G. Raskin, P. Sutton, and M. van der Belt. 1997. The Value of the World's Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital. Nature 387:253-260.
Holl, K. D., and R. B. Howarth. 2000. Paying for Restoration. Restoration Ecology 8:260-267.
Robertson, M. 2006. The Nature that Capital Can See: Science, State, and Market in the Commodification of Ecosystem Services. Environment and Planning D 24:367-387.
Nadasdy, P. 2007. Adaptive Co-Management and the Gospel of Resilience. In Adaptive Co-Mangement: Collaboration, Learning, and Multi-Level Governance, eds. D. Armitage, F. Berkes and N. Doubleday. Toronto, Ontario: University of British Columbia Press.
Galatowitsch, S. M. 2009. Carbon Offsets as Ecological Restorations. Restoration Ecology 17:563-570.
Hobbs, R. J., E. Higgs, and J. A. Harris. 2009. Novel Ecosystems: Implications for Conservation and Restoration. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 24:599-605.
Palmer, M. A., and S. Filoso. 2009. Restoration of Ecosystem Services for Environmental Markets. Science 325:575-576.
Veira, D. L. M., K. D. Holl, and F. M. Peneireiro. 2009. Agro-Successional Restoration as a Strategy to Facilitate Tropical Forest Recovery. Restoration Ecology 17:451-459.
Peterson, M. J., D. M. Hall, A. M. Feldpausch-Parker, and A. T. R. Peterson. 2010. Obscuring Ecosystem Function with Application of the Ecosystem Services Concept. Conservation Biology 24:113-119.
Image credit: Adam R. - Arches National Park 2010