Biodiversity Resources for Restoration Ecology

Authors

  • Steven N. Handel,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Rutgers, The State University, Piscataway, NJ 08855, U.S.A.
    2. School of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales 2109, Australia.
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  • George R. Robinson,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Rutgers, The State University, Piscataway, NJ 08855, U.S.A.
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    • 3

      Current address: Department of Biological Sciences, State University of New York, Albany, NY 12222, U.S.A.

  • Andrew J. Beattie

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales 2109, Australia.
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Abstract

Biological resources can be more usefully incorporated into many aspects of restoration ecology. During the planning and design stage, the wide genotypic variation in natural plant populations must be recognized and exploited. This will ensure that genotypes used on a site are best adapted to local conditions and have a greater probability of survivorship than arbitrarily chosen material. Also, certain unusual genotypes can be located using the principles of evolutionary ecology and can be installed in areas with extreme conditions, such as soils contaminated with heavy metals, in areas where rapid colonizing ability (high seed set and/or clonal growth) is particularly advantageous, or where soils are of poor quality. Similarly, where high herbivore pressure is a threat to restoration, genotypes that are well defended, chemically or mechanically, against animal enemies should be selected to initiate the restoration process. The nursery industry can be encouraged to supply an ecologically wider selection of material for restoration, originating from local biological reserves and natural habitats. During the management phase of a restoration, local natural habitats are critical as reservoirs of biological control agents, seed sources for plant species, and members of higher trophic levels and additional plant species needed during succession. Mutualists such as pollinators, seed dispersers, and mycorrhizal fungi are vital to the success of a restoration project, and these must invade from nearby natural habitats or must be deliberately introduced. During the evaluation phase of restoration, local natural areas should be used as templates of community composition and structure from which one measures success. A functioning restoration project will interact biologically with surrounding areas, the exchange of species and genes being particularly important. Analysis of the microbial and invertebrate communities that have invaded the installed plant community may be useful and accurate determinants of ecological function. For these latter stages of the restoration process, the value of preserving local habitat remnants is high and complements their usefulness as a source of ecologically precise material for installation.

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