• goal setting;
  • meta-analysis;
  • restoration success;
  • South Africa;
  • systematic review

In their article “Assessing the evidence base for restoration in South Africa,” Ntshotsho et al. attempt to determine whether restoration in South Africa is evidence based by reporting on 10 projects' baseline data collection, goal setting, and monitoring. However, their contribution suffers from two major constraints. First, they confuse assessing the evidence base with assessing whether restoration is evidence based. Truly, assessing the evidence base would entail a systematic review of the quantity and quality of information available as well as the conclusions supported, perhaps in a meta-analytical framework. Determining if restoration is evidence based would require a survey of project managers to evaluate if they take decisions based on scientific information. Second, Ntshotsho et al. do not clearly distinguish successfully achieving restoration project goals from successfully restoring ecosystems. They largely focus on projects' socioeconomic goals without emphasizing that these goals are, by definition, secondary to ecological goals in determining restoration success. Thus, Ntshotsho et al. provide neither a sound assessment of the evidence base for restoration nor whether restoration is evidence based. To evaluate and encourage evidence-based restoration in South Africa, we recommend a simple assessment of the basis on which restoration managers make decisions, identification of factors precluding evidence-based decision-making, and development of platforms to evaluate the data collected in restoration programs to generate an evidence base from which to make defendable decisions.