Principle 5 Restoration science and practice are synergistic
Practitioner and stakeholder knowledge and experience, particularly where arising from local sources, is important to restoration practice, This knowledge however should, wherever possible, be supported by knowledge drawn from informal and formal science.
Ecological restoration is a rapidly emerging practice that often relies upon processes of trial and error, with monitoring increasingly being informed by scientific approaches (Box 3). Formal field experiments can also be incorporated into restoration practice, generating new findings to both inform adaptive management and provide valuable insights for the natural sciences.
Science is not the preserve of professional scientists—rather it is a logical approach to thinking based on systematic, repeatable observations and, ideally, controlled experiments to test a prediction (hypothesis). To optimise our ability to gain knowledge from restoration practice, by science-practice partnerships should be encouraged. Such partnerships will help optimise potential for innovative restoration approaches to provide reproducible data and robust guidance for future activities.
Substantial background knowledge of both restoration practice and underpinning ecology is needed for professional ecological restoration planning, implementation and monitoring, requiring the planner and practitioner to draw as fully as possible from all learnings to date. Further applied and basic science is needed in a range of scenarios to support the ongoing development of the discipline of ecological restoration. This is particularly needed with respect to understanding how an ecosystem is assembled and what may be the critical minimum conditions needed to enable an ecosystem to continue its own recovery processes unaided (complete with characteristic resistance and resilience to stresses). There is also an emerging need for science to assist with assessing the potential adaptability of a plant or animal population to climate change. If little is known about a population, research may be needed to determine the degree of assistance required to improve climate- readiness, i.e. improve the potential adaptability of a population to anticipated climate scenarios (Appendix 3).
Formal research can help practitioners overcome what can seem intransigent barriers to recovery, particularly for larger scale projects where cost-effectiveness becomes paramount. These barriers might include hostile substrate conditions, problematic reproductive attributes of species and inadequate supply and quality of germplasm. In cases of mandatory restoration, transparency regarding the availability of scientific knowledge to support a restoration outcome would be expected at the development proposal stage. Where reasonable or unanticipated technical challenges arise during a mandatory restoration project, targeted research should be undertaken to identify solutions. If such research is appropriate and adequate but still fails to provide the technical solutions to meet performance criteria in relation to a restoration objective, it would be appropriate to redefine the restoration end-point to a lower classification for that objective as soon as possible and seek alternative compensations to meet regulatory requirements.