Prioritizing ecological research and restoration based on societal outcomes

TitlePrioritizing ecological research and restoration based on societal outcomes
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsHerrick JE, Dobrowolski J.P., Ayarza M., Bestelmeyer BT, Brown J., Fredrickson E.L., Havstad K, Peters DC
Conference NameEcological Society of America Abstracts
Date PublishedAugust 5-10, 200
ARIS Log Number215040
Keywordsecological, prioritizing, restoration, societal
AbstractEcological research is commonly driven by interest in a particular pattern, process or organism, or by a desire to maximize a particular ecosystem service at a specific location. Ecologists often use the latter to justify funding for the former. This approach often (though not always) leads to irrelevant responses to unimportant problems, and short-term, narrowly-focused local responses to long-term problems with regional to global causes and consequences. We present a strategy for prioritizing ecological restoration and related research. The strategy begins by comparing anticipated long-term societal requirements for ecosystem services with the ecological potential of the land, and with its current capacity to provide these services with and without restoration. Key processes involved in degradation and recovery are identified, together with the spatial and temporal scales at which these processes must be addressed. Research on key processes is used to develop general and site-specific principles that are then flexibly applied to develop and test management strategies. The process is flexible, iterative and at times chaotic as scientists' understanding of ecosystem processes and the relative importance of different ecosystem services evolves, particularly where the relationships between ecosystem services and societal outcomes are unclear. We will conclude by describing how this strategy has been flexibly applied by the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range and the Jornada LTER to organize research on fundamental ecosystem processes that supports the development of restoration and management tools. We also provide examples from Mexico and Honduras showing how elements of this process can be applied internationally. Throughout this presentation, we describe how government and university researchers can significantly increase their impact on societal outcomes through collaborations that build on the relative strengths of their respective infrastructures (e.g. long-term vs. short-term, and technician vs. graduate student-based research) and with non-profit organizations, private landowners and government agencies.