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Introduction to Restoration Ecology (review)

Introduction to Restoration Ecology (review) Introduction to Restoration Ecology Evelyn A. Howell, John A. Harrington, and Stephen B. Glass. 2011. Washington, DC: Island Press. Hardcover. $90.00. ISBN-13: 978-1-59726-189-0. 436 pages. Finally! Since restoration burst on the academic scene starting around 20 yr ago, we have been waiting for a suitable textbook for undergraduate and graduate (especially masters-level) courses. Faculty have been cobbling together readings drawn from primary literature, methods manuals, ecosystem-specific books, more conceptual texts, and online guides, including the wonderful Society of Ecological Restoration (SER) primer. However, we lacked a single cohesive text that outlines the process of ecological restoration. Restoration Ecology ambitiously seeks to fill that void, based on years of experience from authors drawn from the ranks of teaching, research, and restoration practice. Together with Ecological Restoration by Susan Galatowitsch (not reviewed here), we now have solid standards against which future texts will be compared. Such undertakings are not only ambitious, but also courageous. Restoration is both a rapidly evolving field, and one with as many different approaches as there are practitioners and teachers. A textbook sets itself up as a target for a barrage of alternative views and also runs the risk of becoming quickly dated. So I start with a caveat, I am only one of those voices, with my own idiosyncratic viewpoint. Right off the bat, the authors take a stand with their book's title, rejecting the dichotomy between conceptual `restoration ecology' and the practice of `ecological restoration'. We will see if this sticks (I still like the dichotomy). They similarly do not shy from the difficulties of defining what restoration is, deftly combining both practical and more idealistic definitions. I appreciated their advice to the book's audience (restoration students) that "your goal will likely not be to duplicate the past--you cannot return an ecosystem to what it was a decade ago, let alone hundreds of years ago--but rather to create for a sustainable future." The book itself is well organized and clearly written. The chapters parallel an organizational model for successful restoration introduced at the beginning, from assessment to planning to implementation to monitoring. There is due attention given to the human element in restoration. There are enlightening boxes and case studies throughout, and each chapter ends with a short Key Concepts summary and a useful discussion guide, Food for Thought. The text is crisp, the figures generally fine, and typographic errors rare (ironically, one of the very few I found was my own name in the References!). I did wish for more references, and more recent ones. Chapter 2 attempts to summarize all of ecology in the context of restoration in a few pages, with some inevitable oversimplification that sometimes misinforms. Perhaps it would be better to sometimes just refer people to other sources, rather than try to summarize in more detail, especially for topics like statistics. Nonetheless, this chapter sets the conceptual foundation for what is to come. The detail of methods presented as essential at each of these stages is exhaustive, and potentially exhausting to practitioners. I applaud to completeness of these descriptions, and they set a standard that we should seek to achieve, but I would have liked a clear caveat that realworld projects will often need to (and do) simplify from these detailed standards. For example, the reported case studies appear to often be much simpler in assessment (especially), planning, design, and implementation than is set out in these chapters. The difficult question is "How far can one deviate from the detailed ideal without risking restoration failure?" In contrast (and yet related), one topic I wish had gotten greater attention is budgeting and costs. The most effective restoration techniques are often not the most cost-effective. In the authors' defense, restoration researchers have also lagged behind in addressing this issue, one that practitioners grapple with daily, often informally. Perhaps appropriately, the book is strongly American, with most examples drawn from mesic and wetland systems in the U.S. One thing missing here and from almost all books on restoration is a description (and implications) of the remarkable resurgence of the eastern deciduous forest, largely without restoration help. As a western ecologist, I will also indulge a couple additional points: 1) The sentence, "(S)ome plant species . . . alter grasslands and grazing lands in California" hardly evokes the complete conversion of these systems by a multitude of annual invaders; and 2) treating fire as a `management tool' misses the broader (and more difficult) goal of restoring historic fire regimes in a wide variety of ecosystems. As I said at the beginning, it is easy to take potshots at such an ambitious endeavor. No text can fully satisfy the divergent viewpoints extant in restoration, or survive too long without revision in a rapidly evolving field. This book, however, does an admirable job and will deservingly find a place on most restoration bookshelves (or better yet, nightstands) and in many restoration classrooms. I heartily recommend it. Truman P. Young, Professor and Restoration Ecologist, Department of Plant Sciences and Graduate Group in Ecology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, tpyoung@ucdavis.edu. September 2012 ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Ecological Restoration University of Wisconsin Press

Introduction to Restoration Ecology (review)

Ecological Restoration , Volume 30 (3) – Aug 2, 2012

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Abstract

Introduction to Restoration Ecology Evelyn A. Howell, John A. Harrington, and Stephen B. Glass. 2011. Washington, DC: Island Press. Hardcover. $90.00. ISBN-13: 978-1-59726-189-0. 436 pages. Finally! Since restoration burst on the academic scene starting around 20 yr ago, we have been waiting for a suitable textbook for undergraduate and graduate (especially masters-level) courses. Faculty have been cobbling together readings drawn from primary literature, methods manuals, ecosystem-specific books, more conceptual texts, and online guides, including the wonderful Society of Ecological Restoration (SER) primer. However, we lacked a single cohesive text that outlines the process of ecological restoration. Restoration Ecology ambitiously seeks to fill that void, based on years of experience from authors drawn from the ranks of teaching, research, and restoration practice. Together with Ecological Restoration by Susan Galatowitsch (not reviewed here), we now have solid standards against which future texts will be compared. Such undertakings are not only ambitious, but also courageous. Restoration is both a rapidly evolving field, and one with as many different approaches as there are practitioners and teachers. A textbook sets itself up as a target for a barrage of alternative views and also runs the risk of becoming quickly dated. So I start with a caveat, I am only one of those voices, with my own idiosyncratic viewpoint. Right off the bat, the authors take a stand with their book's title, rejecting the dichotomy between conceptual `restoration ecology' and the practice of `ecological restoration'. We will see if this sticks (I still like the dichotomy). They similarly do not shy from the difficulties of defining what restoration is, deftly combining both practical and more idealistic definitions. I appreciated their advice to the book's audience (restoration students) that "your goal will likely not be to duplicate the past--you cannot return an ecosystem to what it was a decade ago, let alone hundreds of years ago--but rather to create for a sustainable future." The book itself is well organized and clearly written. The chapters parallel an organizational model for successful restoration introduced at the beginning, from assessment to planning to implementation to monitoring. There is due attention given to the human element in restoration. There are enlightening boxes and case studies throughout, and each chapter ends with a short Key Concepts summary and a useful discussion guide, Food for Thought. The text is crisp, the figures generally fine, and typographic errors rare (ironically, one of the very few I found was my own name in the References!). I did wish for more references, and more recent ones. Chapter 2 attempts to summarize all of ecology in the context of restoration in a few pages, with some inevitable oversimplification that sometimes misinforms. Perhaps it would be better to sometimes just refer people to other sources, rather than try to summarize in more detail, especially for topics like statistics. Nonetheless, this chapter sets the conceptual foundation for what is to come. The detail of methods presented as essential at each of these stages is exhaustive, and potentially exhausting to practitioners. I applaud to completeness of these descriptions, and they set a standard that we should seek to achieve, but I would have liked a clear caveat that realworld projects will often need to (and do) simplify from these detailed standards. For example, the reported case studies appear to often be much simpler in assessment (especially), planning, design, and implementation than is set out in these chapters. The difficult question is "How far can one deviate from the detailed ideal without risking restoration failure?" In contrast (and yet related), one topic I wish had gotten greater attention is budgeting and costs. The most effective restoration techniques are often not the most cost-effective. In the authors' defense, restoration researchers have also lagged behind in addressing this issue, one that practitioners grapple with daily, often informally. Perhaps appropriately, the book is strongly American, with most examples drawn from mesic and wetland systems in the U.S. One thing missing here and from almost all books on restoration is a description (and implications) of the remarkable resurgence of the eastern deciduous forest, largely without restoration help. As a western ecologist, I will also indulge a couple additional points: 1) The sentence, "(S)ome plant species . . . alter grasslands and grazing lands in California" hardly evokes the complete conversion of these systems by a multitude of annual invaders; and 2) treating fire as a `management tool' misses the broader (and more difficult) goal of restoring historic fire regimes in a wide variety of ecosystems. As I said at the beginning, it is easy to take potshots at such an ambitious endeavor. No text can fully satisfy the divergent viewpoints extant in restoration, or survive too long without revision in a rapidly evolving field. This book, however, does an admirable job and will deservingly find a place on most restoration bookshelves (or better yet, nightstands) and in many restoration classrooms. I heartily recommend it. Truman P. Young, Professor and Restoration Ecologist, Department of Plant Sciences and Graduate Group in Ecology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, tpyoung@ucdavis.edu. September 2012 ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION

Journal

Ecological RestorationUniversity of Wisconsin Press

Published: Aug 2, 2012

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