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Restoring Remote Ecosystems


Eric S. Higgs, email


Indirect effects from climate-driven changes in ecosystems that are remote from direct human activity pose challenges for ecological restoration. Significant and often indirect impacts on alpine ecosystems, the primary ecosystem under consideration in this article, threaten historical-reference conditions and the viability of some species. The impetus for restoration is similar to projects involving more direct and proximate impacts, but the issues are more complicated in remote ecosystems. Restoration efforts in remote ecosystems might do more harm than good, and the effort required for effective restoration might be greater than easily justified given the shortfall of resources for restoring more heavily impacted ecosystems. The long duration and integration of impacts on remote landscapes pose a distinct set of challenges to restorationists. Intervening in remote ecosystems makes them less remote by definition (they are now affected by human agency). In this article, we examine scientific, technical, and moral issues and offer an initial model for assessing the appropriateness of restoring remote landscapes.