Top 10

Restoration ecology is a young science in a rapidly changing world. Multiple change factors, including global climate change, altered nutrient cycles, species invasion, and habitat fragmentation, can combine to exacerbate the effects of site-specific degradation and stymie restoration efforts. Recognizing these interacting factors has led to three major developments in restoration ecology: (1) A need to shift our goals from restoring an historic system and toward intervening to create a system we desire in the future (2) A recognition that our restoration approaches must account for multiple change factors (3) A reality that policy response to global change is increasingly focused on carbon sequestration. Restoration ecologists need to effectively navigate ecosystem service markets, and particularly carbon credits markets, in order to maximize restoration outcomes.

These themes and my specific paper recommendations were chosen through an informal combination of the following metrics: (1) An ISI search of “restoration ecology” between 2008 and 2010, sorted by times cited, (2) The 5 most-downloaded papers from Restoration Ecology, (3) Expert opinion; i.e. papers assigned by Katie, (4) Peer opinion, i.e. papers selected and voted for by this class, (5) Personal opinion, based on my own reading and thoughts. Most are conceptual and review papers, but there are a few data papers:

1. Jackson, S. T., and R. J. Hobbs. 2009. Ecological Restoration in the Light of Ecological History. Science 325:567-569.
A concise and compelling thought piece about why the idea of “restoring” an ecosystem fails to acknowledge indigenous land use as well as future global change. The conclusions of the paper push restoration away from its focus on reference sites. It’s worth considering the whole Science special section as entry one in a restoration “top 10” list.

2. Hobbs, RJ; Higgs, E; Harris, JA. 2009. Novel ecosystems: implications for conservation and restoration. TRENDS IN ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION 24( 11): 599-605.
Develops the idea of “novel ecosystems” – systems that are a mix of native and exotic species, which are occurring from combined global change. Novel ecosystems are a reality and can include desirable and non-desirable attributes: restoration should manage these ecosystems to maximize specific values rather than aim to return them to prior states.

3. Schaefer, V. 2009. Alien Invasions, Ecological Restoration in Cities and the Loss of Ecological Memory. RESTORATION ECOLOGY 17 (2): 171-176.
In top-5 recent Restoration Ecology downloads. Builds the argument that we need to consider feedback loops between species and their environments – feedback loops between native species and their environment can maintain a restoration trajectory, feedback loops between invasive species and their environment can impede restoration.

4. Brewer, J.S. and T. Menzel. 2009. A method for evaluating outcomes of restoration when no reference sites exist. Restoration Ecology 17: 4-11.
In top-5 recent Restoration Ecology downloads. Recognizing that we often do not know what a site looked like before degradation, Brewer and Menzel develop a habitat data matrix approach to assess the success of a restoration project in the absence of a reference site.

5. Chazdon, RL; Harvey, CA; Komar, O; et al. Beyond Reserves: A Research Agenda for Conserving Biodiversity in Human-modified Tropical Landscapes BIOTROPICA, 41 (2): 142-153 MAR 2009.
A review of scientific knowledge of human-modified tropical forests. Lays out a clear research plan for restoring these systems, with an understandings of multiple costs and benefits (social, financial, ecological) that must be included in this approach.
Related paper: Chazdon, RL 2008. Beyond deforestation: Restoring forests and ecosystem services on degraded lands. SCIENCE 32(5882): 1458-1460.

6. 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.
A creative review of how planting native species with functional traits similar to likely invasive species may decrease invasion rates. This paper has fueled a larger movement to link plant traits and ecological filters with restoration.

7. Bradley, BA; Blumenthal, DM; Wilcove, DS; Ziska, LH. 2010. Predicting plant invasions in an era of global change. TRENDS IN ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION 25 (5): 310-318.
Bradley et al. consider three primary global change factors, climate change, increased resource availability and land cover change in a review describing how these factors will affect invasion. Highlights areas for future research.
Related paper: Bradley, BA; Oppenheimer, M; Wilcove, DS. 2009. Climate change and plant invasions: restoration opportunities ahead?. GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY 15 (6): 1511-1521.

8. Biggs, R; Carpenter, SR; Brock, WA. 2009. Turning back from the brink: Detecting an impending regime shift in time to avert it. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 106(3): 826-831.
If degradation causes as system to pass a threshold or experience a “regime shift”, it may require a lot of effort to restore the system to its prior state. It can be very difficult to identify a regime shift before it occurs: Biggs et al. propose a model to detect regime shifts in fisheries.
***Not on original lists***

9. Goldman, RL, Tallis, H, Kareiva, P, Daily, G. C. 2008. Field evidence that ecosystem service projects support biodiversity and diversity options. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 105(27): 9445-9448.
Restoration projects are increasingly being viewed as carbon sequestration projects. Goldman et al. review funding to The Nature Conservancy to show that with growing carbon markets more money is now going to restoration, rather than money being diverted from traditional biodiversity restoration toward restoration for carbon sequestration.

10. Gagnon, CA; Berteaux, D. 2009. Integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Ecological Science: a Question of Scale ECOLOGY AND SOCIETY, 14(2): Art. No. 19.
Compares Inuit traditional knowledge with scientific knowledge about the arctic fox and snow goose. Provides a case study for how traditional and scientific knowledge can complement one another to build a greater ecological understanding of a system.


  1. I like the methodology you used to decide upon your papers, it covered the bases. I also want to check out the special Restoration issue you mentioned.
    Paper 8 seems incredibly pertinent as the discussions of thresholds in alt. stable states often lacks description of how to detect and avoid shifts- which presents inherent problems for managers attempting to understand and intervene in the system.
    I read paper three on your list (Schaefer 2009) for week 9, but didn't feel like its contributions were novel nor the discussion illuminating- in fact the use of equations to describe ecological memory seemed a stretch, and even the concept of ecological memory (seed-bank/microbe centric) can be discerned from examining ecological history; the feedback loops discussion seemed recycled other papers. What was different was the focus on restoration in an urban context.
    While this list highlights papers advancing theory, while linking to practice, I do think some of papers criticizing the fetishzation of ecosystem services, carbon sequestration and co-management would add further breadth.

  2. I also wanted to comment that I liked that you were so explicit about your methodology. The importance of integrating social/human aspects is big enough in my opinion that that feels lacking to me here, but I liked many of the papers you chose.

  3. I think you've done an excellent job of summarizing some of the large issues facing the field of restoration ecology in your first paragraph. I agree that it would have been useful to incorporate a couple papers that discuss the inherent complexities of the context of restoration, particularly considering the third point you made in the first paragraph.