Ecological restoration, ecosystem services, and land use: a European perspective

Tolvanen, A. and Aronson, J. | Ecology and Society | 2016 | Peer Reviewed | Review |


This special feature provides an overview on how the ecosystem service concept has been and can be incorporated into the science, practice, and policies of ecological restoration (ER) and evidence-based land-use. It includes an edited selection of eleven invited and peer-reviewed papers based on presentations given during the 9th European Conference on Ecological Restoration in 2014. The focus is on Europe, but many contributors also make appraisals and recommendations at the global scale. Based on the contributors’ papers, and our own overview of the promise of ecological restoration in the existing international treaties, coalitions, and conventions, we propose that the following actions could contribute to the positive impacts of ER on biodiversity maintenance, ecosystem functioning, progressive mainstreaming the concepts of both ER and ecosystem services, significant mitigation and offsetting of anthropogenic climate change, and lasting enhancement of both ecosystem and human health: • ER should be incorporated into land use planning, wherever needed, and the synergies and trade-offs of different land use scenarios should be assessed in terms of their impacts on ecosystem services. • The discourse of ER should be enlarged, wherever it is needed, to include multifunctional land use that simultaneously supports sustainable production systems, built environments, and the quality and quantity of diverse ecosystem services. This approach will generate ecological, social, and economic benefits in the long run. • Monitoring and evaluation of ER projects should be a continuous process involving careful selection of indicators chosen with the full range of stakeholders in mind, and a sufficiently long-term perspective to catch the progress of long-term or highly dynamic ecosystem processes. • Scientists should actively participate in policy and land management discussions in order to give their views on the potential outcomes of decisions. • Greater cooperation and exchanges are needed within the EU and globally in order to accelerate the upscaling, improvement, and mainstreaming of both large-scale ER and the science and application of the ecosystem services concept.