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Tropical Forest Restoration within Galapagos National Park: Application of a State-transition Model

S. R. Wilkinson, University of Alberta
M. A. Naeth, University of Alberta
F. K. A. Schmiegelow, University of Alberta

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Abstract

Current theory on non-equilibrium communities, thresholds of irreversibility, and ecological resilience suggests the goal of ecological restoration of degraded communities is not to achieve one target, but to reestablish the temporal and spatial diversity inherent in natural ecosystems. Few restoration models, however, address ecological and management issues across the vegetation mosaic of a landscape. Because of a lack of scientific knowledge and funds, restoration practitioners focus instead on site-specific prescriptions and reactive rather than proactive approaches to restoration; this approach often dooms restoration projects to failure. We applied a state-transition model as a decision-making tool to identify and achieve short- and long-term restoration goals for a tropical, moist, evergreen forest on the island of Santa Cruz, Galapagos. The model guided the process of identifying current and desirable forest states, as well as the natural and human disturbances and management actions that caused transitions between them. This process facilitated assessment of opportunities for ecosystem restoration, expansion of the definition of restoration success for the system, and realization that, although site- or species-specific prescriptions may be available, they cannot succeed until broader landscape restoration issues are identified and addressed. The model provides a decision-making framework to allocate resources effectively to maximize these opportunities across the landscape, and to achieve long-term restoration success. Other restoration models have been limited by lack of scientific knowledge of the system. State-transition models for restoration incorporate current knowledge and funds, are adaptive, and can provide direction for restoration research and conservation management in other degraded systems.

Key words

ecological resilience; ecosystem management; invasive species; restoration model
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087