Integrating soil ecological knowledge into restoration management
The variability in the type of ecosystem degradation and
the specificity of restoration goals can challenge restorationists’
ability to generalize about approaches that lead
to restoration success. The discipline of soil ecology, which
emphasizes both soil organisms and ecosystem processes,
has generated a body of knowledge that can be generally
useful in improving the outcomes of restoration despite
this variability. Here, we propose that the usefulness of
this soil ecological knowledge (SEK) for restoration is
best considered in the context of the severity of the original
perturbation, the goals of the project, and the resilience
of the ecosystem to disturbance. A straightforward
manipulation of single physical, chemical, or biological
components of the soil system can be useful in the restoration
of a site, especially when the restoration goal is
loosely defined in terms of the species and processes that
management seeks to achieve. These single-factor manipulations
may in fact produce cascading effects on several
ecosystem attributes and can result in unintended recovery
trajectories. When complex outcomes are desired,
intentional and holistic integration of all aspects of the soil
knowledge is necessary. We provide a short roster of examples
to illustrate that SEK benefits management and
restoration of ecosystems and suggest areas for future
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