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Ecological Restoration and Environmental Change: Renewing Damaged Ecosystems – book review

Stuart K. Allison, PhD’s excellent book Ecological Restoration and Environmental Change: Renewing Damaged Ecosystems clearly explains the current state of affairs regarding ecological restoration. He addresses key issues and challenges to ecosystem restoration science dogma. He questions how we define ecosystem restoration and against which baseline. Baselines are various and can be difficult to define on a species by species level. Nativists may want all non-native species removed from an ecosystem while others may be more flexible in their approach.

Dr. Stuart also leads a lively discussion on the role of ecosystem restoration in our rapidly changing climate change impacted ecology. As ecosystems rapidly develop globally influenced by both introduced species and anthropogenic climate change, he discusses whether there exist any ecosystems globally that are not human impacted. He discusses whether all existing ecosystems are in fact “novel” ecosystems.

Dr. Stuart explains how historically many ecosystem restoration projects are based on returning an ecosystem to a non-anthropogenically impacted baseline. Yet defining what these baselines are inherently difficult. For example Nachusa Grasslands in north-central Illinois, USA, is a 3,000 acre prairie, savanna, and wetlands mosaic ecosystem restoration project. Dr. Stuart shows us how the decision to “benchmark” the ecosystem restoration baseline to the year 1800 is a human-based decision, and in fact, the Nachusa Grasslands may have been anthropogenically impacted in the year 1800. Furthermore, portions of Nachusa Grasslands have been restored to from 48 to 150+ original species. Given this range of restoration, can we label a prairie restored to 48 species as a restored original ecosystem? Or do we need to restore each acre portion of restored prairie to 150+ original species to complete an ecosystem restoration project?

This question is pertinent in light of the recent impact of Superstorm Sandy on many US Wildlife Refuges. How much ecosystem restoration should we do to the obviously anthropogenically-impacted US Wildlife Refuges impacted by Superstorm Sandy? At what point, can national wildlife refuge managers conclude an ecosystem restoration project? How will we measure the ecosystem restoration criteria for these impacted wildlife refuges? These questions require ecosystem restoration frameworks that will require budgeting and measuring and monitoring benchmarks. Answering these questions can be facilitated by the knowledge and processes described in Dr. Stuart’s Ecological Restoration and Environmental Change: Renewing Damaged Ecosystems.

Ecological Restoration and Environmental Change: Renewing Damaged Ecosystems is filled with excellent easy-to-read case studies that provide good background information for both the academic and the student. Whether someone has a casual interest in the human decision-making ethics surrounding ecological restoration, someone needs to manage an ecosystem restoration budget, or someone is a natural resource scientist, Ecological Restoration and Environmental Change: Renewing Damaged Ecosystems is a must-have addition to their professional library.

How to order:

Ecological Restoration and Environmental Change: Renewing Damaged Ecosystems

Author: Stuart K. Allison, PhD

Publisher: Earthscan from Routledge

ISBN: 978-1-84971-285-9

Gabriel Thoumi, CFA, Climate Bonds Initiative Advisory Panel, is also a natural resource scientist.

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