Redefining Ecological Restoration In The 21st Century

Ecological restoration was conceptualised over forty years ago, through the lens of natural science. However, ecological restoration has evolved over time, and has come to include a social and scientific concept. Even though ecological restoration presents itself as a duality in guidance documents on the subject, there is hardly a change in its definition. This viewpoint makes a weak argument towards those who are reluctant to acknowledge that ecological restoration is required at an ecologically weak point, and also does not give an appropriate amount of credit towards the contribution of social sciences.

social sciences

Ecological restoration is currently defined as the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed by either natural or anthropogenic factors. This definition promotes the concept of restoring the environment in a particular way but it should be known that ecological restoration reaches farther than ecological recovery. How we view a concept affects our way of viewing it. It should be viewed in two layers: what restoration does and why we need it. Restoration of an ecosystem assists in the recovery of ecosystem conditions that in turn maintain ecological function, process and structure. There is a popular quote that depicts why we need to restore an ecosystem: “People do not buy what you do, they buy why you did it”. Ecological restoration practitioners need to have a clear idea as to what they are trying to do if they want more people to practice what they do. The approach towards ecological restoration needs to change in order to meet modern scientific and public enquiry.

One of the ways to redefine ecological restoration is redefining the concept itself. As mentioned earlier, ecological restoration is a multi faceted study and pulls in a large number of factors, social, environmental and even psychological. So an alternative definition to ecological restoration would be : “Ecological restoration can be defined as the process that assists the recovery of a degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystem to reflect values regarded as inherent in the ecosystem and provide goods and services that people value”.

Ecological restorations

This definition remains faithful to the guidelines and core concepts as presented by the previous definition and other guideline documents. Similarly, by acknowledging the potential for ecological restoration to foster values that inherently resonate with people and conventional utilitarian values, it is flexible to cover all of the motivating rationales that people embrace to restore.  This includes the rationales of conservation organizations whose vision and mission statements have come to include social dimensions, private corporations, indegenous groups, state and federal agencies, and thousands of vpaid practitioners and volunteers from all over the world.