Restoration ecology has made significant advances in the past few decades and stands to make significant contributions both to the practical repair of damaged ecosystems and the development of broader ecological ideas. I highlighted four main areas where progress in research can assist with this. First, we need to enhance the translation of recent advances in our understanding of ecosystem and landscape dynamics into the conceptual and practical frameworks for restoration. Second, we need to promote the development of an ability to correctly diagnose ecosystem damage, identify restoration thresholds, and develop corrective methodologies that aim to overcome such thresholds. This involves understanding which system characteristics are important in determining ecosystem recovery in a range of ecosystem types, and to what extent restoration measures need to overcome threshold and hysteresis effects. A third key requirement is to determine what realistic goals for restoration are based on the ecological realities of today and how these will change in the future, given ongoing changes in climate and land use. Finally, there is a need for a synthetic approach which draws together the ecological and social aspects of the issues surrounding restoration and the setting of restoration goals.