About Ecosystem Restoration

Ecosystem restoration (ER) is the process of assisting with the recovery of ecosystem components, where they have been degraded, damaged, or destroyed, by re-establishing critical ecological processes and structural characteristics.  SERNbc incorporates human values in our definition of ER:  The management of the structure and function of vulnerable ecosystems to achieve a desired future condition that will sustain ecological services and meet socio-economic needs.


Ecoysystem Degradation

Ecosystems may be degraded or damaged when: 

  • they lack diversity (e.g.: even-aged forests with a single tree species and little understory vegetation).   
  • they lack the critical structural elements appropriate to a given stage of ecosystem development (e.g.: coarse woody debris, berry producing shrubs, large organic debris, riparian vegetation, old large trees, important browse species, and vegetative cover). 
  • there are unnatural levels of one or more structural elements (e.g.: high fuel loads because of fire suppression).   
  • the spread and growth of introduced species or forest pathogens interfere with the ecological processes inherent to that ecosystem (e.g.: natural vegetation dominated by a single species).  
  • the number of individuals in a population is too low to be sustainable, or the population is isolated and migration into suitable habitats is not possible (e.g.: whitebark pine).   

Application

SERNbc uses three general criteria to select specific ecosystems for restoration activities, which include: 

  • Ecosystem vulnerability, 
  • Functional importance of the ecosystem, and
  • Existing management mechanisms and/or programs.   

Vulnerable, degraded and damaged ecosystems are a high priority for ER activities if they have high functional importance in terms of providing important ecological services. This functional importance or management priority increases when the ER needs of a subject ecosystem is not being addressed by existing programming.     

Potential ER projects must align with SERNbc’s objectives as identified in our strategic plan. All ER projects undertaken by SERNbc need to be supported by data and analysis that describes their current state, desired future condition, management objectives, and treatment rationale. 


Guiding Principles

There are a number of principles SERNbc considers when evaluating the ecosystem restoration priorities, including:

  • Consider all future scenarios before developing ER treatments to identify driving forces, future conditions, potential risk and uncertainty, and appropriate outcomes,
  • Avoid undertaking treatments in areas, which may increase conflict between domestic livestock and other wildlife such as deer, moose, caribou, or elk. 
  • Promote techniques that create biologically diverse and functionally complex ecosystems,
  • Avoid setting treatment targets based on historical conditions unless those conditions will be the same in the future,  
  • Ensure that ER treatments result in ecosystems that function well under existing conditions  and under expected future conditions, 
  • Avoid treatments that require repeated interventions unless there is assurance that these future interventions will be supported, and 
  • Ensure a monitoring framework is incorporated into ER projects.