-fa Initial, Wild State

-fa Initial, Wild State

FIGURE 5.1 Different end points in various restoration processes. (Adapted from Francis, G. R., J. J. Magnuson, H. A. Regier, and D. R. Talhelm. 1979. Technical Report No. 37. Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Ann Arbor, MI.)

ecology about restoration. However, most workers share a sense of urgency about the need for restoration, as noted below in the quote by Packard and Mutel (1997a):

Restoration today is similar to battlefield medicine. We learn, by necessity, from attempts to revive torn and insulted ecosystems. The discipline profits much from watching the results of extreme measures taken in these emergency situations. As a result, practical knowledge is far ahead of hard science. We need as much scientific knowledge as we can get to inform restoration decisions, but restorationists must often act with imperfect knowledge if they are to act at all before the biodiversity they seek to preserve disappears. Thus, restoration relies on art and intuition as well as on objective knowledge.

Restoration ecology is an important subdiscipline of ecological engineering because it involves the design, construction, and operation of new ecosystems. The use of conventional engineering varies considerably across the spectrum of restoration projects. Some restorations rely almost completely on the passive ecosystem self-organization of natural succession while others are much more active, involving costly planting programs and landscape modification with changes in geomorphol-ogy and hydrology. The relationship between ecology and engineering has not always been positive in this subdiscipline, as indicated by Clark (1997):

We see at present an uneasy relationship between ecology and technology, with uncertainty about the proper role for each. At one extreme there is "restoration" which is virtually a branch of engineering. Adherents to this approach reflect the engineer's concern to build structures according to fixed plans and to a high precision, but not necessarily in sympathy with natural environmental processes. Indeed, the discipline of environmental engineering has developed in parallel to restoration ecology, and the practical objectives are often similar. For example, environmental engineers have made great progress in construction of wetlands for the purpose of water treatment. The difference from ecological restoration is that these are essentially engineered structures, perhaps requiring the building of new levees or excavating of the land in areas which could not otherwise support wetland communities; such structures often require virtually constant aftercare. At the other extreme are the wildlife conservation organizations which attempt to restore ecosystems with only hand tools and willing volunteers. The problems with this approach are that it can be very slow, can only be performed at a small scale, and the results obtained are unpredictable.

One of the reasons for this uncomfortable relationship is certainly a distaste amongst some ecologists for the tools that technology provides. Bulldozers, herbicides, pesticides, chainsaws, and high explosives are, for many conservation-minded ecologists, the instruments of the Devil. It is using precisely these means that the damage that they wish to put right was created. This is an attitude, which, while perhaps understandable, is none the less a barrier to progress. No tool in itself is bad or good; what matters is how it is used.

Restoration ecology must improve its use of technology, and find a middle course between these two extremes.

A goal of ecological engineering is to break down the dichotomy described above and help create the "middle course" where both ecology and engineering are used in a collaborative rather than an antagonistic way.

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