Subject: Re: NANFA-L-- The myth of restoration?

Laura Burbage (
Fri, 6 May 2005 08:29:08 -0700 (PDT)

Talk about timelines. I have 2 weeks to finish my
landscape architecture thesis on process-oriented
ecological restoration of freshwater systems. (Yes, I
did just finish one recently, but that was in ecology.
Yes, I guess I'm a glutton for punishment.)

Anyway, the myth of restoration is the basis for my
thesis. So many restoration projects do not restore
the ecological system; they only make it look nice.
My argument is that unless you address the
environmental processes that degraded the system, it
will continue to degrade. Bioengineering of stream
banks is real popular right now. Better than rip-rap,
yes, but it is not restoration. It is simply a tool,
and is nothing more than an eco-friendly form of
engineering. It can be *used* in restoration
projects, but is not the restoration itself. I see a
lot of these bioengineering stabilization projects,
and I wonder if in 20 years the problems will return
because the source of degradation has not been

I've also been reading a lot about classification
systems and their use in restoration, especially
Rosgens system. There is a lot of criticism about it
in the scientific literature. I'm almost through
reading his book, and while I think it is fine as a
classification system and a means of communication, I
question his theories on restoration and ecosystem
evolution. It's a poorly written book that does not
offer much in the way of literature support for his
claims. While some of the things he says may indeed
be true, there is no way of knowing. The bibliography
is the smallest I've seen for a recent book of it's
size, and some of his (few) in-text citations are not
in the bibliography. I also noted that the book is

Lastly, my BIG beef with many restoration projects,
and even much of the restoration literature, is that
it often focuses on geomorphology and ignores the
biological processes that comprise healthy systesms.
I see precious little discussion regarding nutrient
inputs, decomposition, plant distributions,
microhabitats, connectivity, herbivory, competition...
I could go on and on and on and on and on...


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