Combining insights from restoration and invasion ecology to improve invasive species management

Researchers and practitioners in the disciplines of restoration and invasion ecology have much to learn from each other. These synergistic mission-driven disciplines are relatively new and share many similarities and cross-cutting debates. Dealing with invasive species is often a key element of ecosystem restoration to achieve goals other than merely the removal of the invasive itself while restoration is increasingly seen as vital when dealing with the aftermath of invasion control.

In a recent paper published in the journal Neobiota, C·I·B post-doctoral associate, Dr Mirijam Gaertner, and co-authors reviewed the literature to combine insights from these two disciplines to enable more effective management of invasive species while simultaneously informing restoration practice. The reviewed literature included 1075 articles from 62 countries. The authors analysed the articles for the type of restoration applied, determined by the aim of the study, and conducted further content analyses on 208 selected studies that showed a link to biological invasions.

An important result from the literature review indicated that invasions are often seen as a symptom rather than a cause of degradation. While this is frequently the case, this assumption could nevertheless result in restoration actions that neglect other co-existing alterations to the ecosystem state, leading to replacement in the system of a new suite of alien species or mortality of re-introduced native species. A focus on the causes as well as the symptoms would increase the efficiency of restoration efforts.

As a way forward, the authors introduced a nine-step framework (Figure 1) focusing on invasion management that integrates efforts of restoration and invasion ecologists and practitioners, utilizing a case study, which implements the framework in restoration projects in the south west of Australia.

Framework for site restoration after alien invasion

Figure 1: Simplified and general framework for restoration of sites after alien invasion including practitioners, restoration ecologists and invasion ecologists. In a first step practitioners approach restoration and invasion ecologists with a specific need for ecosystem restoration and identified knowledge gaps. Before restoration goals can be identified invasion ecologists need to determine the degree of ecosystem degradation (step 2). In a subsequent workshop (step 3) both ecologists and practitioners will have to decide on restoration goals which are ecologically and economically feasible. Depending on the situation, other parties for example conservation organizations will have to get involved (step 3). Once restoration aims have been identified restoration ecologists will have to identify research questions to enhance knowledge gaps whereas invasion ecologists will look at the broader ecosystem context (step 4). In a joined effort, restoration ecologists and practitioners can then develop restoration activities and research methodology (step 5). Before, during and after implementation of the restoration activities, restoration and invasion ecologists can collect data to monitor restoration success and investigate species interactions and disturbances. Findings can then be communicated to practitioners, which can modify and adapt restoration accordingly. The iterative feedback of research results into practice can guarantee ongoing monitoring and improvement of practice (step 6-8). Finally yet importantly, restoration and invasion ecologists can investigate restoration outcomes and publish the results to make the findings available to the scientific community (step 9).

Read the paper: Gaertner M, Fisher JL, Sharma GP, Esler KJ (2012) Insights into invasion and restoration ecology: Time to collaborate towards a holistic approach to tackle biological invasions. NeoBiota 12: 5775.

For further details contact Dr Mirijam Gaertner, e-mail