• conceptual frameworks;
  • degraded state;
  • forward-restoration;
  • natural succession;
  • restoration goals;
  • socioeconomic decisions


The present state of restoration ecology is far away from Bradshaw’s “acid test for ecology.” The conclusions drawn from the series of papers in this issue and from the Jena workshop suggest some directions in which the field may progress. More attention must be paid to the degraded state, which should be evaluated by its specific features and carefully analyzed before any restoration plan is laid down. Restoration goals have to be realistic, which includes the appreciation of globally changing conditions, resulting in a paradigm-shift toward “forward-restoration.” Basically, the transition from the degraded state conditions to the target state is a kind of succession that is manipulated by the application of goal-orientated and system-specific disturbances. Whenever possible, restorationists should step back and make use of naturally occurring succession, which requires a sophisticated restoration strategy, involving flexible management responses, multiple alternative target states, robust measurements for the restoration progress, and careful long-term monitoring. The unique feature of restoration ecology is the involvement of socioeconomic decisions, and conceptual frameworks for ecological restoration have to implement the specific links to natural succession. To bridge the gap between ecological theory and on the ground restoration, it is essential that restoration practice is translated into the vocabulary and thinking of basic ecology. If all these aspects are integrated, ecological restoration as an application—and restoration ecology as an applied science—may develop into an acid test for our understanding of interactions between people and their environment, rather than for pure ecology.