- 1The need to rehabilitate and restore ecological resources degraded by overuse was already established when the Journal of Applied Ecology was launched in 1964. In the intervening 40 years, submissions on restoration have increased and now contribute at least 8–12% of the papers published annually. Examples from subjects such as conservation biology, pollution ecology and ecological modelling show that notions of restoration or recovery are now implicit in the philosophy of applied ecology.
- 2The terminology of restoration ecology is increasingly clear, but there is still debate about the definition of restoration end-points. Although restoration constitutes the process of assisting recovery, success ultimately depends on whether populations, communities and ecological functions attain limits typical of un-degraded reference systems. With evidence increasing that the removal of stressors is not always sufficient to guarantee restoration success, the true arbiters will be the organisms and processes at which restoration is aimed. Stringent appraisal on these ecological criteria will be required if restored systems are to conserve biodiversity and deliver ecosystem services to the extent that many restoration ecologists believe is possible.
- 3Botanical systems have figured most prominently among the Journal's restoration papers, but there is increasing emphasis on the restoration of individual populations or species, often invertebrates or vertebrates such as birds.
- 4Recent contributions on restoration to the Journal of Applied Ecology include projects seeking the ideal technical solutions to specific restoration problems. Other papers are distinguished for their seminal value and often show that intervention is preferable to natural succession in delivering a successful outcome. Examples range from species and ecosystem-level restoration to real evidence that large-scale restoration can be achieved by policy instruments such as agri-environment. Papers published in the Journal also show how restoration can bring ecological value to urban locations, where many people now gain their first-ever wildlife experiences.
- 5Synthesis and applications. This special profile of five papers follows these themes in developing the assessment of restoration end-points, in understanding the restoration process, and in identifying factors that promote success or bring failure. Restoration ecology offers yet another example where the application of ecology simultaneously provides academic leadership and solutions to real environmental problems. In an era in which the adverse economic and ecological consequences of environmental degradation are increasingly unacceptable, restoration ecology is emerging as one of the most important disciplines in the whole of environmental science.