Spatial and Temporal Considerations in Restoring Habitat for Wildlife


Address correspondence to: T. Luke George, Department of Wildlife, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA 95521, U.S.A.,


An accumulated body of theory and empirical evidence suggests that habitat selection by animals is a scale-dependent, hierarchical process. Hierarchy theory predicts that habitat suitability is influenced by the interaction of factors at multiple spatial scales from the microsite to the landscape and that higher-order factors impose constraints at lower levels. For instance, large-scale factors such as landscape context may make a site unsuitable for a species even if the vegetation structure and composition are appropriate. In addition, the spatial arrangement of habitat elements at all scales must be considered when planning restoration efforts. For example, the presence of snags does not ensure that the site will be suitable for snag-dependent species. The size, age, and spacing of snags and their juxtaposition to other habitat elements must also be considered. Finally, all habitats are dynamic, and therefore the ecological processes that contribute to those dynamics must be maintained or suitable substitutes included in the recovery plan. When considering restoring habitat for wildlife, we recommend that managers: (1) identify the wildlife species they want to target for restoration efforts, (2) consider the size and landscape context of the restoration site and whether it is appropriate for the target species, (3) identify the habitat elements that are necessary for the target species, (4) develop a strategy for restoring those elements and the ecological processes that maintain them, and (5) implement a long-term monitoring program to gauge the success of the restoration efforts.