Community ecological theory may play an important role in the development of a science of restoration ecology. Not only will the practice of restoration benefit from an increased focus on theory, but basic research in community ecology will also benefit. We pose several major thematic questions that are relevant to restoration from the perspective of community ecological theory and, for each, identify specific areas that are in critical need of further research to advance the science of restoration ecology. We ask, what are appropriate restoration endpoints from a community ecology perspective? The problem of measuring restoration at the community level, particularly given the high amount of variability inherent in most natural communities, is not easy, and may require a focus on restoration of community function (e.g., trophic structure) rather than a focus on the restoration of particular species. We ask, what are the benefits and limitations of using species composition or biodiversity measures as endpoints in restoration ecology? Since reestablishing all native species may rarely be possible, research is needed on the relationship between species richness and community stability of restored sites and on functional redundancy among species in regional colonist “pools.” Efforts targeted at restoring system function must take into account the role of individual species, particularly if some species play a disproportionate role in processing material or are strong interactors. We ask, is restoration of habitat a sufficient approach to reestablish species and function? Many untested assumptions concerning the relationship between physical habitat structure and restoration ecology are being made in practical restoration efforts. We need rigorous testing of these assumptions, particularly to determine how generally they apply to different taxa and habitats. We ask, to what extent can empirical and theoretical work on community succession and dispersal contribute to restoration ecology? We distinguish systems in which succession theory may be broadly applicable from those in which it is probably not. If community development is highly predictable, it may be feasible to manipulate natural succession processes to accelerate restoration. We close by stressing that the science of restoration ecology is so intertwined with basic ecological theory that practical restoration efforts should rely heavily on what is known from theoretical and empirical research on how communities develop and are structured over time.
Humans create vast quantities of wastewater through inefficiencies and poor management of water systems. The wasting of water poses sustainability challenges, depletes energy reserves, and undermines human water security and ecosystem health. Here we review emerging approaches for reusing wastewater and minimizing its generation. These complementary options make the most of scarce freshwater resources, serve the varying water needs of both developed and developing countries, and confer a variety of environmental benefits. Their widespread adoption will require changing how freshwater is sourced, used, managed, and priced.
Disease outbreaks can have substantial impacts on wild populations, but the often patchy or anecdotal evidence of these impacts impedes our ability to understand outbreak dynamics. Recently however, a severe disease outbreak occurred in a group of very well-studied organisms–sea stars along the west coast of North America. We analyzed nearly two decades of data from a coordinated monitoring effort at 88 sites ranging from southern British Columbia to San Diego, California along with 2 sites near Sitka, Alaska to better understand the effects of sea star wasting disease (SSWD) on the keystone intertidal predator, Pisaster ochraceus. Quantitative surveys revealed unprecedented declines of P. ochraceus in 2014 and 2015 across nearly the entire geographic range of the species. The intensity of the impact of SSWD was not uniform across the affected area, with proportionally greater population declines in the southern regions relative to the north. The degree of population decline was unrelated to pre-outbreak P. ochraceus density, although these factors have been linked in other well-documented disease events. While elevated seawater temperatures were not broadly linked to the initial emergence of SSWD, anomalously high seawater temperatures in 2014 and 2015 might have exacerbated the disease’s impact. Both before and after the onset of the SSWD outbreak, we documented higher recruitment of P. ochraceus in the north than in the south, and while some juveniles are surviving (as evidenced by transition of recruitment pulses to larger size classes), post-SSWD survivorship is lower than during pre-SSWD periods. In hindsight, our data suggest that the SSWD event defied prediction based on two factors found to be important in other marine disease events, sea water temperature and population density, and illustrate the importance of surveillance of natural populations as one element of an integrated approach to marine disease ecology. Low levels of SSWD-symptomatic sea stars are still present throughout the impacted range, thus the outlook for population recovery is uncertain.
Abstract. Artificial reefs have been constructed throughout the world, but their effects on adjacent soft-bottom communities are largely unknown. In December 1986, we investigated the influence of Pendleton Artificial Reef (PAR) in Southern California on the abundance of infauna in the surrounding sand bottom. PAR was constructed in 1980 of quarry rock placed in eight piles, or modules. The artificial reef altered the grain-size distribution of sediments around the reef; sediments close to the modules were coarser than those 10 or 20 m away from the modules. Densities of one of the two most common species, the polychaete Prionospio pygmaeus, were lower near the reef, perhaps due to foraging by reef-associated predators or because the habitat near the reef was less suitable. We found no evidence that foraging by reef-associated fishes caused a widespread reduction in infaunal densities near the reef, and in fact the other most common taxon, Spiophanes spp., had higher densities near the reef. The most conspicuous effect of the artificial reef concerned the tube-dwelling worm Diopatra ornata, which only occurred in close association with the modules. In addition, total infaunal density and the densities of decapods, echinoderms and sipunculids were higher within D. ornata beds than outside the beds. These results indicate that the densities of some species were enhanced, and others depressed, around the reef, but that the overall effect of the artificial reef on the surrounding infauna was limited to a small area near the modules.
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