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A framework for measuring the effects of disturbance in restoration projects

Cowan, E.L., Standish, R.J., Miller, B.P., Enright, N.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-2979-4505 and Fontaine, J.B.ORCID: 0000-0002-6515-7864 (2021) A framework for measuring the effects of disturbance in restoration projects. Restoration Ecology . Art. e13379.

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Ecological resilience is widely acknowledged as a vital attribute of successful ecosystem restoration, with potential for restoration practice to contribute to this goal. Hence, defining common metrics of resilience to naturally occurring disturbances is essential for restoration planning, efforts, and monitoring. Here, we reviewed how plant community ecologists have measured resilience of restoration projects to disturbances and propose a framework to guide measurement of restoration projects to disturbance. We found 22 studies that investigated the impact of disturbances on restoration projects, from three continents and for three disturbance types. Over half of the studies were from Australia, with the dataset biased toward fire responses of restored, or partially restored, forest ecosystems. Native plant species richness, cover, and density were common response variables. Studies varied in restoration context, design, response variables, and statistical approaches, limiting generalizations. Nonetheless we have identified several response variables that offer potential as lagging indicators (e.g. species richness) and leading indicators (e.g. recruitment) of resilience in diverse vegetation types exposed to a variety of disturbance regimes. We suggest a third set of variables, proxy measures of resilience (e.g. functional redundancy), to complement lagging and leading indicators. We conclude with a framework to guide decisions about when to use each of the three types of measures to assess resilience of restoration projects to disturbance, providing some clarity to decision‐making despite the uncertainty of changing disturbance regimes. Lastly, we invite researchers to understand the impact of disturbance on the resilience of restoration projects, rather than assume resilience.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Publisher: Wiley
Copyright: © 2021 Society for Ecological Restoration
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