Welcome to the Restoration Ecology Discussion Forum!

Read and comment on 10 Pivotal Papers in Ecological Restoration.  Read below about the seminar that started it all off.  Read our article reviews  (also grouped by topic on the sidebar).  Check out interesting restoration projects and forums (links below on sidebar).  Contribute to discussions and read about current events.

UC Berkeley Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM) Restoration Ecology Seminar

In Fall 2010, Dr. Katharine Suding ran a multi-disciplinary graduate seminar at UC Berkeley on restoration ecology.  Students from ESPM, Geography, Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design, the Energy and Resources Group, and the Goldman School of Public Policy attended.  In all, there were approximately 17 students in the seminar.  On the first day, Dr. Suding brought a list of possible topics in restoration ecology that we might study or discuss throughout the course, and we voted on this list.

Every week, we read several core papers on each of the topics that were chosen, and we all read an additional paper and wrote and posted a critique of that paper. All told, we reviewed an additional 84 articles in addition to reading a total of 17 core papers; there was a weekly vote for the best paper on a given topic; we all read these weekly winners.  These reviews are all available to read on this blog, both sorted by weekly topic (see topics at left) as well as alphabetically in the article review section.

Finally, at the end of the course, we compiled "Top 10" lists of papers from all those we'd read throughout the semester. The Top 10 lists gave rise to the "Insights from a Cross-Disciplinary Seminar: 10 Pivotal Papers in Ecological Restoration" opinion paper in Restoration Ecology.

Please share your thoughts about important current papers in restoration ecology, where the field is headed (or should be headed!) and what exciting new ideas are out there.  How can we better connect theory and practice, and integrate work from social science and biophysical science?  How can we reach out to practitioners and laypeople? Please comment on the 10 Pivotal Papers page.


  1. First, I am glad to see that graduate students are getting an opportunity like this to stay afloat on the current literature for this field. As a fellow graduate student, I feel it is an invaluable experience for students to get the chance to see what the current views are present, who our movers and shakers are, and how they can further future decisions in the field by staying on top of the recent findings, and hopefully I can encourage other students at my university to pursue this sort of method in their seminars.

    I agree with you that while restoration ecology has had a history of applied practice, it is still functioning as a young field, and I feel that the techniques are only going to diversify from here on in (whether that be from insights gained from multidisciplinary research, or from responses to the effects of climate change coming to pass).

    I have come across a recent paper by Hobbs et al. (2011), and did not see the paper in the article review:

    Hobbs,R.J., L.M. Hallet, P.R. Ehrlich, and H.A. Mooney. 2011. Intervention ecology: applying ecological science in the twenty-first century. Bioscience 61: 442-450.

    The paper embraces an argument in semantics, an argument which seems to be as old as the field of ecology itself, but, more importantly, the paper suggests that one should pull away from restoration ecology, potentially due to the misconceptions inherited by policy and the public.

    If this is a call for a surrender to the field of restoration, or a call to change the name, I would disagree. If anything, I feel we should be to blame for any misunderstandings policy may have for what restoration can and cannot do, and it is important (as highlighted by your recent paper) to strengthen our communication with policy and other disciplines to understand our strengths and limitations, as well as attempt to turn informed actions into political action.

    Let me know what you think by this paper when you have the time.

    1. Hi Adam,

      Thank you for pointing out this paper and bringing it into the discussion! It doesn't appear in our review because we were writing it in 2010; however, we did have the opportunity to hear Richard Hobbs speak during that time and I know his thinking about "intervention ecology" was definitely present in my mind when we were writing the opinion piece.

      It's true that Hobbs et al are suggesting a new term, or maybe even a new paradigm, for thinking about our interaction with ecosystems - but I don't personally read it as an indictment of restoration ecology. First of all, I like the concept of intervention ecology as a unifying concept because conservation, restoration, and ecological management are all part of the same group of activities - the label just depends on what you're doing to the system. And people who are doing each of these activities should be working together, not competing with each other (in my opinion). (Also, for full disclosure, I have physics in my background so I like unifying theories.)

      I don't know that I'd say that we should abandon restoration ecology, but rather see it as part of a larger set of management strategies. For instance, when is the ecosystem restored, and when do you shift from restoration to management? It seems like many systems left to themselves can revert to undesirable conditions. So when is it management and when is it restoration? That's why I don't think it's a call for surrender - I see it more as a call for thinking bigger, and not at all for discarding the term.

      And I definitely agree about the communication aspect of your point. I don't think that thinking bigger means being let off the hook regarding clarity on what is meant by any of the terms (conservation, ecological management, restoration). I completely agree about outreach and education to make sure laypeople and policymakers are clear on what restoration means. Hobbs et al seem to be saying that people interpret restoration to mean fixing everything, and there certainly are “moral hazards underlying the presumption that complete restoration is possible,” but I don't think that's the reason to move to “intervention” ecology - I think of the broader term as an addition, not a replacement.

      Hobbs et al also point out that people don't get warm, fuzzy, happy feelings about "intervention ecology" the way they do about "restoration ecology" - so there are lots of reasons not to give up on the term.

      I hope you do get a chance to spark discussion among your fellow graduate students. I know for me the exposure to different viewpoints and disciplinary ways of thinking was invaluable. And thank you again for bringing up this paper - I think discussion of the "Intervention Ecology" idea is highly valuable.


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