APPENDIX 2 - Values and principles underpinning ecological restoration
- Supports and is modelled on local indigenous ecosystems and does
not cause further harm. Australia contains large tracts of relatively intact
land and water ecosystems, which represent an invaluable natural heritage.
Appreciation of the long history of evolution of organisms interacting with
their natural environments underlies the ethic of ecological restoration within
the Australian context.
- Is aspirational. The ethic of ecological restoration
is to seek the highest and best conservation outcomes for all ecosystems. Even if it takes long timeframes, full ecological restoration should be the goal wherever it may be ultimately attainable and desirable. Where full ecological restoration is clearly not attainable or desirable, continuous improvement
in the condition of ecosystems and substantial expansion of the area
available to nature conservation is encouraged. This ethic informs and drives high quality
- Is universally applicable and practiced locally with
positive regional and global implications. It is inclusive of aquatic and
terrestrial ecosystems, with local actions having regional and global benefits
for nature and people.
- Reflects human values but also recognises nature's
intrinsic values. Ecological restoration is undertaken for many reasons including
our economic, ecological, cultural and spiritual values. Our values also drive
us to seek to repair and manage ecosystems for their intrinsic value, rather
than for the benefit of humans alone. In practising ecological restoration,
we seek a more ethical and satisfying relationship between humans and the
rest of nature.
- Is improved by rigorous, relevant and applicable
knowledge drawn from a dynamic interaction between science and practice.
All forms of knowledge, including knowledge gained from science, nature-based
cultures and restoration practice are important for designing, implementing
and monitoring restoration projects and programs. Results of practice
can be used to refine science; and science used to refine practice.
Primary investment in practice-applicable research and development increases
the chance of restoration success and underpins regulatory confidence
that a desired restoration outcome can be achieved.
- Is not a substitute for sustainably managing
and protecting ecosystems in the first instance. The promise of restoration
cannot be invoked as a justification for destroying or damaging existing ecosystems
because functional natural ecosystems are not transportable or easily rebuilt
once damaged and the success of ecological restoration cannot be assured.
Many projects that aspire to restoration fall short of reinstating reference
ecosystem attributes for a range of reasons including scale and degree of
damage and technical, ecological and resource limitations. Where this occurs
the resulting outcome would be referred to as rehabilitation.
Successful ecological restoration depends upon:
- Addressing causes at multiple scales to the extent
possible. Degradation will continue to undermine restoration inputs unless
the causes of degradation are addressed or mitigated. The range of anthropogenic
threats include over-utilisation, clearing, erosion and sedimentation, pollution,
altered disturbance regimes, reduction and fragmentation of habitats and invasive
species. All these threats are capable of causing ecosystem decline in their
own right, and can be exacerbated when combined, particularly over long time
frames. Habitat loss and fragmentation, in particular, exacerbates the threats
to biodiversity from climate change.
- Recognizing that restoration initiates a process of
natural recovery. Re-assembling species and habitat features on a site invariably
provides just the starting point for ecological recovery; the longer term
process is performed by the organisms themselves. The speed of this process
can sometimes be increased with greater levels of resourcing.
- Recognizing that undesirable species can also be highly
resilient to the disturbances that accompany restoration, with sometimes unpredictable
results as competition and predator-prey relationships change. Invasive species,
for example, can intensify or be replaced with other invasives without comprehensive,
consistent and repeated treatment.
- Taking account of the landscape/aquatic context and
prioritising resilient areas. Sites must be assessed in their broader context
to adequately assess complex threats and opportunities. Greatest ecological
and economic efficiency arises from improving and coalescing larger and better
condition patches and progressively doing this at increasingly larger scales.
Position in the landscape/aquatic environment and degree of degradation will
influence the scale of investment required.
- Applying approaches best suited to the degree of impairment.
Many areas may still have some capacity to naturally regenerate, at
least given appropriate interventions; while highly damaged areas might
need rebuilding ‘from scratch’. It is critical to consider
the inherent resilience of a site (and trial interventions that trigger
and harness this resilience) prior to assuming full reconstruction is
needed (Box 2).
- Addressing all biotic components. Terrestrial restoration
commonly starts with re-establishing plant communities but must integrate
all important groups of biota including plants and animals (particularly those
that are habitat-forming) and other biota at all levels from micro- to macro-organisms.
This is particularly important considering the role of plant-animal interactions
and trophic complexity required to achieve the reinstatement of functions
such as nutrient cycling, soil disturbance, pollination and dispersal. Collaboration
between fauna and plant specialists is required to identify appropriate scales
for on-ground works and to ensure the appropriate level of assistance is applied
to achieve recovery.
- Addressing genetic issues. Where habitats and
populations have been fragmented and reduced below a threshold/minimum size,
the genetic diversity of plant and animal species may be compromised and inbreeding
depression may occur unless more diverse genetic material is reintroduced
from larger populations, gene flow reinstated and /or habitats expanded or
- Knowing your ecosystems and being aware of past
mistakes. Success can increase with increased working knowledge of
(i) the target ecosystem’s biota and abiotic conditions and how
they establish, function, interact and reproduce under various conditions
including anticipated climate change; and
(ii) responses of these species to specific restoration interventions
- Gaining the support of stakeholders. Successful
restoration projects have strong engagement with stakeholders including
local communities, particularly if they are involved from the planning
stage. Prior to expending limited restoration resources, potential benefits
of the restored ecosystem to the whole of society must be explicitly
examined and recognised and it must be previously agreed that the restored
ecosystem will be the preferred long-term use. This outcome is more
secure when there are appreciable benefits or incentives available to
the stakeholders; and where stakeholders are themselves engaged in the
- Taking an adaptive (management ) approach. Ecosystems
are often highly dynamic, particularly at the early stages of recovery
and each site is different. This not only means that specific solutions
will be necessary for specific ecosystems and sites; but also that solutions
may need to be arrived at after trial and error. It is therefore useful
to plan and undertake restoration in a series of focused and monitored
steps, guided by initial prescriptions that are capable of adaptation
as the project develops.
- Identifying clear and measurable targets, goals
and objectives. In order to measure progress, it is necessary to identify
at the outset how you will assess whether you have achieved your restoration
outcomes. This will note only ensure a project collects the right information
but it can also better attune the planning process to devise strategies
and actions more likely to end in success (Box
3 and Appendix
- Adequate resourcing. Budgeting strategies need
to be identified at the outset of a project and budgets secured. When
larger budgets exist (e.g. as part of mitigation associated with a development)
restoration activities can be carried out over shorter time frames.
Smaller budgets applied over long time-frames can be highly effective
if works are limited to areas that can be adequately followed-up within
available budgets before expanding into new areas. Well-supported community
volunteers can play a valuable role in improving outcomes when budgets
- Adequate long-term management arrangements.
Secured tenure, property owner commitment and long-term management will be required
for most restored ecosystems, particularly where the causes of degradation cannot
be fully addressed. Continued restoration interventions aid and support this process
as interactions between species and their environment change over time. It can
be helpful to identify likely changes in species, structure and function over
the short, medium and longer term duration of the recovery process.