C·I·B contributes to book on restoration ecology

Restoration Ecology: The New Frontier cover

Besides the chapter on biological invasions, the C·I·B also contributed the images for the cover of the book. The images show a section of the Wemmershoek River near Franschhoek in 1985 when the river was fringed with dense stands of Acacia longifolia and A. mearnsii (top), and the same section in 2011, following removal of the invasive trees [photo credit: D.M. Richardson].

Researchers at the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (C·I·B) are among the contributors to a new academic textbook that describes recent advances in restoration science and in the practice of ecological restoration, covering ecosystems and biomes from around the globe. The book edited by Jelte van Andel and James Aronson, is entitled “Restoration Ecology: The New Frontier”, and is aimed at restoration researchers and practitioners.

C·I·B Director, David Richardson, and C·I·B staff member and restoration specialist Mirijam Gaertner joined forces with Patricia Holmes from the Environmental Resource Management Department, City of Cape Town, to contribute a chapter that deals with biological invasions and how they relate to restoration science and ecological restoration.

The chapter focuses on biological invasions that have undeniably negative impacts on ecosystems, and exclusively on impacts of invasive plant species. The authors review the many ways in which invasive plants can potentially change ecosystem composition, structure, and functioning and summarize the most important challenges restoration ecologists have to face when dealing with alien invasions.

The concepts of ecosystem resilience and thresholds are applied to biological plant invasions. The implications of these concepts for management and restoration are presented using case studies of Acacia and Pinus invasions in South African fynbos.

The authors apply the concepts of ecosystem resilience and ecosystem thresholds in developing a framework for decision-making for ecological restoration, focusing on plant invasions. The framework addresses questions concerning the feasibility of ecosystem restoration (i.e. will removal of the alien species be sufficient to facilitate autogenic recovery of the ecosystem?) and questions relating to the desirability of ecosystem restoration (i.e. is restoration desirable where the alien species have become integrated into socio-ecological systems and may provide valued ecosystem services?).

The authors conclude that for restoration to be successful explicit attention must be given to the determinants of resilience and the identification of key thresholds. This allows for the level of degradation to be quantified, and paves the way for an objective consideration of potential trajectories under a range of management interventions. Further work is needed to bridge the gap between understanding the full array of impacts resulting from invasions and knowing how this understanding can be used to formulate plans for restoration.

For more information about the book and to order a copy, visit the Wiley-Blackwell website