Articles | Volume 1, issue 1
21 Mar 2000
 | 21 Mar 2000

Environmental conservation and restoration ecology: two facets of the same problem

K. M. Urbanska

Abstract. Restoration ecology has often been regarded as a subordinate component of conservation biology and yet the two disciplines differ from each other. Conservation aims at staving off extinction, i.e. preserving ecological structures and services which still exist, however endangered they may be. On the other hand, the principal objective of restoration is re-building ecological structures and services that have been destroyed. The most distinct focus of conservation is on population response to exploitation, whereas restoration is principally concerned with over-exploited sites and landscapes in which communities/ecosystems are to be re-built. Conservation aims at preserving as many species as possible; on the other hand, the biodiversity approach in restoration may be addressed on three levels viz. 1) initial species diversity, 2) post-restoration increase of diversity via spontaneous species immigration, and 3) age-state diversity of developing plant cover.

The conceptual framework in conservation biology differs from that in restoration ecology. The two basic paradigms used in conservation biology are 1) small-population paradigm and 2) declining-population paradigm, and one of its useful concepts is population viability assessment (PVA). The two principal paradigms used in restoration ecology are 1) nature-in-balance paradigm and 2) nature-in-flux paradigm. Interfaces between conservation and restoration may be recognized when e.g., recovery strategies for threatened species include habitat/ecosystem restoration, or when population processes in non-threatened species are studied to verify their usefulness as restoration material.

Integration of species and ecosystem approaches is already recognizable in ecology. It is to be hoped that in future conservation and restoration become integrated components of ecosystem management, but for the time being they remain two different facets of the same problem which is the negative human impact upon environment.