Monitoring ecological processes for restoration projects

TitleMonitoring ecological processes for restoration projects
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsHerrick JE, Schuman G.E., Rango A.
JournalJournal of Nature Conservation
Date PublishedSeptember 2006
ARIS Log Number198226
Keywordsecosystem services, erosion, indicators, landscape, monitoring, restoration, runoff, spatial pattern, spatial variability
AbstractRestoration of ecological processes is key to restoring the capacity of ecosystems to support social, economic, cultural and aesthetic values. The sustainability of the restored system also depends on processes associated with carbon, nutrient and hydrologic cycles, yet most restoration monitoring is limited to plant community composition. Our research has shown that short-term plant composition monitoring is a necessary but insufficient predictor of long-term restoration success. Long-term (up to 75 years) studies in the western United States show that short-term monitoring of plant community composition alone incorrectly predicted the failure of treatments that were ultimately successful, and the success of treatments that ultimately failed. We propose that vegetation composition monitoring be combined with one or more ecological process indicators reflecting changes in three fundamental ecosystem attributes on which restoration success depends: soil and site stability, hydrologic function and biotic integrity. These simple, rapid, plot-level indicators reflect changes in resource redistribution and vegetation structure. We include a case study involving restoration of mixed grass prairie on mineland in the west-central United States.