Jessie's Top 10

Restoration ecology is an exciting interdisciplinary field that at its core is applied ecology but also involves social, political aspects. The most important aspects to consider in any restoration project includes: climate change, ecological theory (including community and ecosystem dynamics, landscape restoration, and the role of science in restoration), social/political/economic aspects, and measuring success. I have organized the top 10 current papers in restoration ecology under these topic headings.

Climate Change

R.J. Hobbs, E. Higgs, J.A. Harris, Novel ecosystems: implications for conservation and restoration. Trends in Ecology & Evolution - 1 November 2009 (Vol. 24, Issue 11, pp. 599-605)

The concept of “novel ecosystems,” where new, non-historical configurations of ecosystems are developing as a result of a variety of local and global changes, is an important concept to consider in any restoration project. While reference sites may still be useful in some cases, I appreciate the argument that systems are becoming so dynamic, and changing so rapidly that we need to consider that it may not be appropriate to restore it back to a previous state.

Seastedt, T. R., R. J. Hobbs, and K. N. Suding. 2008. Management of novel ecosystems: are novel approaches required? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment6:547-553.

This article is important as it discusses how management actions should be influenced by the concept of the novel ecosystem described above.

Bradley, BA; Oppenheimer, M; Wilcove, DS. 2009. Climate change and plant invasions: restoration opportunities ahead?. GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY 15 (6): 1511-1521.

Because so much of the field of restoration ecology is spent figuring out how to kill weeds, and then killing weeds, this paper is extremely important. Before practioners and restoration ecologists jump into response mode on every new weed invasion, or dismiss a weed as a non-threat, we need to consider whether this weed will be a problem and priority under future conditions.

Ecological Theory in Restoration application

Palmer, M. A. (2009). Reforming watershed restoration: science in need of application and applications in need of science. Estuaries and Coasts, 32, 1–17.
This paper was truly exciting to me, and I believe is something everyone in the field of restoration ecology should read. The paper argues that successful restoration will not happen with scientists on one side and practitioners/application on the other. Practitioners need scientists involved throughout restoration project phases (planning, implementation, and monitoring), and scientists need to consider what science would be most valuable to the application of restoration ecology. Simple concept, but one that I think people in the field need to hear repeatedly.

Funk, JL; Cleland, EE; Suding, KN; Zavaleta, ES. Restoration through reassembly: plant traits and invasion resistance. TRENDS IN ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION 23 (12):695-703. 2008.

This paper discusses how measuring plant traits in a site can give valuable information for restoration efforts. Choosing a species to revegetate with that has traits similar to the invasive plant (ex: tarweed and yellow star thistle), would be an application used from this paper.

Suding, KN; Gross, KL; Houseman, GR Alternative states and positive feedbacks in restoration ecology TRENDS IN ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION, 19 (1): 46-53 JAN 2004.
Considering where a site lies along the trajectory of multiple stable states, alternate states, feedbacks and thresholds is an important in identifying, prioritizing and addressing these system constraints, and identify whether and how restoration may be possible.

Holl, KD; Crone, EE; Schultz, CB Landscape restoration: Moving from generalities to methodologies, BIOSCIENCE, 53 (5): 491-502 MAY 2003

This paper reviews the “methods used to assess the role of landscape level processes in past studies, and suggests ways to use past and ongoing restoration activities to increase our understanding of large-scale processes and improve restoration projects.” This paper is important in it offers advice on how to move forward in the field of landscape restoration ecology. While not a new paper, I within list requirements, I felt more recent papers in the covering landscape ecology aspects to restoration to be too site specific.

Social/economic/political aspects

Palmer, MA; Filoso, S, Restoration of Ecosystem Services for Environmental Markets SCIENCE, 325 (5940): 575-576 JUL 31 2009

This paper discusses risky business of developing ecosystem services in restoration. Palmer says it better than I: “Before making risky investments, we must understand why and when restoration efforts fall short of recovering the full suite of ecosystem services, what can be done to improve restoration success, and why direct measurement of the biophysical processes that support ecosystem services is the only way to guarantee the future success of these markets. Without new science and an oversight framework to protect the ecosystem service assets on which people depend, markets could actually accelerate environmental degradation.”

Norgaard, RB; Kallis, G; Kiparsky, M. Collectively engaging complex socio-ecological systems: re-envisioning science, governance, and the California Delta ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & POLICY, 12 (6): 644-652 Sp. Iss. SI OCT 2009

This paper is important in that it begins to shed light on the important relationship between stakeholders, science, political systems and a successful restoration project

Measuring Success

Ruiz-Jaen, M. C. and Mitchell Aide, T. (2005), Restoration Success: How Is It Being Measured?. Restoration Ecology, 13: 569–577. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-100X.2005.00072.x

This paper is important in that it reviews the SER restoration primer and evaluates how and if people are using the metrics provided in the SER restoration primer to evaluate success of restoration projects. Since the SER primer is something that could have international impact in the field of restoration ecology, I think it is extremely valuable to evaluate the primer and to give advice to practitioners and scientists measuring the success of restoration.

This list starts to layout a framework of important aspects to consider in any restoration project. The list is lacking a more comprehensive paper discussing the importance of working with stakeholders on restoration projects. In addition, there seem to be gaps in literature on application of landscape ecology to restoration ecology, and how project goals and success criteria should be determined. If this list, or combination of all of our class lists, was required reading for anyone working in the field of restoration ecology, I believe we would have much more success in implementing projects. Let's restore landscapes considering the future conditions, and for the future generations.


  1. I like how most of these papers tie directly to practice. Bravo also for including a paper on measuring success- it appears in many of our lists (as in the practice as well) we have left out the crucial need for monitoring and goal-setting . . . which is understandable as this discussion seems to have a robst history, nonetheless, it is also the step which most often falls by the wayside and leaves projects incomplete.
    Additionally, I appreciated the inclusion of the Palmer and Filoso (2009) paper due to its reminder of the importance of the precautionary principle (even though the context is more regulatory and market-based), so often (again in practice) it seems that things steam full speed ahead without sufficient analysis of alternatives.

  2. I, too, liked the inclusion of monitoring... when we were coming up with our themes, I was debating about where monitoring fit in, and whether I should simply have another section for it, and in the end given the constraints I left it out. So I'm glad you put it in yours.

    I like the Funk paper as well as the Bradley paper... neither of them made it on my actual top 10 list but they were on my short list.