How Much Ecology Do We Need to Know to Restore Mediterranean Ecosystems?

Authors

  • Fernando Valladares,

    Corresponding author
    1. Instituto de Recursos Naturales, Centro de Ciencias Medioambientales, CSIC. Serrano 115, E-28006 Madrid, Spain
    2. Departamento de Biología y Geología, Escuela Superior de Ciencias Experimentales y Tecnológicas, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, c/ Tulipán s/n, 28933 Móstoles, Spain
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  • Ernesto Gianoli

    1. Departamento de Botánica, Universidad de Concepción, Casilla 160-C Concepción, Chile
    2.  Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology and Biodiversity (CASEB), P. Universidad Católica, Santiago, Chile
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Address correspondence to F. Valladares, email valladares@ccma.csic.es

Abstract

Despite important advances in ecological knowledge of Mediterranean-type ecosystems, advances in restoration ecology have not seen a parallel increase in these systems. Although some concepts such as positive plant–plant interaction (facilitation) have received attention in the restoration ecology community, others such as phenotypic plasticity have not. Some concepts (e.g., environmental heterogeneity) are mature enough for a wide use in restoration, whereas available knowledge on others (e.g., facilitation, plasticity) is less conclusive. However, the scientific knowledge is in general enough to significantly improve the guidelines for restoration of Mediterranean ecosystems. Our review suggests that (1) the extent of facilitation in dry ecosystems is partially understood, with supporting, but somewhat contradictory empirical evidence for its potential use in restoration; (2) the influence of habitat heterogeneity on plant performance and plasticity is only beginning to be understood, with a strong bias toward patterns of structural heterogeneity and negligible information on functional heterogeneity; and (3) sound evaluations of phenotypic plasticity might be useful to increase the success of restoration practices in patchy Mediterranean environments. Future global change scenarios involving temperature rise, reduced precipitation, increased frequency of extreme climatic events, and important land use changes and fragmentation must be particularly considered when restoring Mediterranean ecosystems. Further research on how to incorporate results on facilitation, environmental heterogeneity, and plasticity within a global change framework is clearly needed.

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