When and Where to Actively Restore Ecosystems?

When and Where to Actively Restore Ecosystems?


While conservation efforts around the world have focused on restoring degraded ecosystems to provide ecosystem services and benefit biodiversity, yet there has been an increasing recognition that certain ecosystems can rapidly recover without human intervention. This paper examines the question: what cases and to what extent should humans actively facilitate ecosystem recovery?

Conclusions & Takeaways

Because the resources for restoration are limited, the authors suggest that land managers consider factors such as ecosystem resilience, land use history, landscape conditions (access to surrounding seed sources), management goals, and the resources available for restoration before deciding on a restoration strategy. Some systems can recover rapidly from disturbance and would only require passive restoration or minor actions such as eliminating grazing and controlling fires to facilitate the natural regeneration on the site. Other systems may be more degraded (former mine sites, eroded cattle pastures, etc) and/or farther away from seed sources, thus requiring much more active methods of restoring the topography and planting trees. Overall, before spending on costly interventions, the natural process and management goals should be considered to decide the appropriate amount of human intervention necessary for restoration of a given site.



Holl KD, Aide TM. When and where to actively restore ecosystems?. Forest Ecology and Management. 2011;261:1558–1563. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2010.07.004.


  • Environmental Studies Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, USA
  • Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, San Juan, PR, USA