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On the Cusp of Restoration: Science and Society


Address correspondence to R. E. Turner, email


Habitat restoration has reached political respectability at many scales across the Earth and represents a serious reversal of some entrenched social views regarding the environment as a strictly exploitable resource for private gain. Science helps improve restoration by bringing clarity in the form of order, understanding, and descriptions of uncertainty. But scientific ideas and experience must be offered in a timely manner and welcomed to be a useful and accurate part of restoration. These ideas may be adopted or fail to be influential for vastly different reasons. Valid ideas may be untimely or be packaged too poorly to be acceptable, or an idea may be erroneous, but still be acceptable (and lead to poor decisions) where the ability to convince or superior networking skills compensate for an inadequacy of facts, logic, or intentions. The most desirable outcome is to fairly weigh all relevant ideas during decision-making, and without confusing accuracy and clarity with consensus or deliberative inclusivity. Project scale influences these outcomes because social and policy complexity increases with project size. Ideas, of whatever origin, must be applied in the imperfectly comprehended landscape and “policy-scape” of policies and personal preferences influencing the spatial productivity, richness, and uses. Successful habitat restoration will have the science welcomed and developing in well-ventilated and professional ways, while simultaneously participating in the world of the larger policy-scape. Judgments will be made and mistakes occur, of course. But, if done well, we may end up restoring habitats, institutions and parts of society.