According to a new study published in Restoration Ecology, the use of large experimental tests in the field of environmental restoration has been limited, at best. The study posits that, for restoration to proceed as a science as well as a practice, large scale experiments will have to be conducted on whole ecosystems.
“Very few restoration ecologists are taking advantage of large restoration sites by conducting large-scale experiments,” says Joy B. Zedler of the University of Wisconsin- Madison. “Most people wouldn’t buy a new shirt without trying on several different kinds to see which fits best and looks right. It’s similar with restoration; we want to find the best fit between the methods we use and the outcomes we want.”
Many of us would prefer to adhere to the old adage; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. However with the way the world is at the moment, restoration is becoming the only way. Too much has already taken place, and so little political will exists to “prevent”, that any return to normalcy is going to have to take place through restoration.
Zedler believes, rightly and scientifically so, that researchers should establish large scale experiments, testing and comparing several methods at once and monitoring which one comes out on top.
There are, not surprisingly, a number of restrictions that stand in the way of Zedler’s goals. The level of difficulty, cost, coupled together with a lack of funding, as well as coordinating the availability of researchers with sites that are ready for restoration, are all problems that Zedley has encountered, but believes can still be overcome.
“Without large-scale experiments, we lose significant opportunities to learn how to recover populations, community structure and ecosystem processes, and we limit our ability to document variability and whole-system responses,” she says.