Climate-Smart Restoration Principles
In a world where rapid environmental change is rewriting the ground rules for conservation, restoration is more important than ever. Today, restoration is tasked not just with aiding the recovery of damaged and destroyed ecosystems, but projects must now succeed in a world where climate change is the new normal. And climate change poses some very big challenges to restoration. For example, returning a stream or aspen grove to healthy function may not mean recreating what it was like in the past. Instead, we must ask how to meet the needs of wildlife and humans in a climate-changed future.
To meet this challenge, Point Blue has developed a framework for designing restoration projects to address climate change – climate-smart restoration. We are defining climate-smart restoration as the process of enhancing ecological function of degraded, damaged, or destroyed areas in a manner that prepares them for the consequences of climate change.
To help restoration practitioners design projects that address climate change, we have developed a set of five guiding principles. At Point Blue, we put these principles into practice to design restoration projects that are climate-smart, and we've created a simple set of tools and resources to help others do the same. These resources are in our Climate-Smart RestorationToolkit.
Principle 1: Show your work. Deciding how to restore places in a way that prepares them for the consequences of climate change is a new endeavor. The task is made especially challenging by the very high level of uncertainty about how the climate will change and how society will respond. In some cases, the information we use to guide action today, may be very different from the information we use to guide action in the future. By “showing our work” we will document our logic so that future workers understand if they need to take new action as new information becomes available. “Showing your work” also enables a process that should aid in arrival of the best possible actions, because you have asked and answered key questions.
Principle 2: Look forward but don’t ignore the past. Climate-smart restoration will need to set forward-looking goals, use available science on climate change predictions, and learn from historic conditions and events.
Principle 3: Consider the broader context. Climate-smart restoration needs to be concerned with climate change impacts beyond the scale of individual projects, prioritize what and where to do restoration, and must be considered within the context of threats beyond those posed solely by climate change.
Principle 4: Build in ecological insurance. Restoration approaches that incorporate redundancies and are robust to a range of future scenarios may act to provide ecological insurance against uncertain future conditions. See figure.
Principle 5: Build evolutionary resilience. It is increasingly recognized that microevolutionary change can occur at the relatively short timescales relevant to natural resource management decisions, and may therefore be a critical pathway by which species escape extinction under climate change. Consequently, restoration actions that build evolutionary resilience by managing microevolution are climate-smart.
Principle 6: Include the human community. The long-term success and growth of climate-smart ecological restoration projects will be facilitated by a community of advocates with an understanding of the what, why, and how to prepare systems for climate change. Additionally, project sustainability will be increased when people who understand and care about it can monitor and maintain it. Hence, projects where students, teachers, and the general public are involved will be better supported and their influence increased.
Principle 7: Monitor and Experiment. Given the great uncertainties around how climate change will impact ecosystems and how society will respond, it is important to conduct ecological monitoring to manage and modify in an adaptive way. Restoration experiments can help provide answers to key uncertainties, provide tools to access key information, and help evaluate effectiveness.