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Restoration and Science: A Practitioner/Scientist's View from Rare Habitat Restoration at a Southern California Preserve


Address correspondence to S. A. DeSimone, email


Researchers reexamining the relationship between restoration science and practice report a continuing scientist-practitioner gap. As a land manager with scientific training, I offer my perspective of the chasm and describe a restoration practice infused with as much science as the realities of limited budget and time allow. The coastal sage scrub (CSS) restoration project at Starr Ranch, a 1,585 ha Audubon preserve in southern California, combines non-chemical invasive species control, restoration, and applied research. Our practices evolve from modified scientific approaches and the scientific literature. Results from experiments with non-optimum replication (on effects of seed rates, soil tamping, and timing of planting) nonetheless had value for management decisions. A critical practice came from academic research that encouraged cost-effective passive restoration. Our passive restoration monitoring data showed 28–100% total native cover after 3–5 years. Another published study found that restoration success in semiarid regions is dependent on rainfall, a finding vital for understanding active restoration monitoring results that showed a range of 0–88% total native cover at the end of the first season. Work progresses through a combination of applied research, a watchful eye on the scientific literature, and “ecological intuition” informed by the scientific literature and our own findings. I suggest that it is less critical for academic scientists to address the basic questions on technique that are helpful to land managers but rather advocate practitioner training in methods to test alternative strategies and long-term monitoring.