Using the past to manage the future: the role of palaeoecological and long-term data in ecological restoration

Saúl Manzano*, Adele C.M. Julier, Cherie J. Dirk, Andriantsilavo H.I. Razafimanantsoa, Igshaan Samuels, Hana Petersen, Peter Gell, M. Timm Hoffman, Lindsey Gillson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Global change in its various expressions has impacted the structure and function of ecosystems worldwide, compromising the provision of fundamental ecosystem services and creating a predicament for the societies that benefit from them. Restoration ecology plays a key role in securing ecological integrity and societal well-being, and hence represents a global priority. However, human perception seldom goes back to the beginning of significant ecosystem degradation, making ecosystem assessment and restoration practices difficult. Long-term data, historical records, and paleoecological information can increase our understanding of ecological responses to natural or anthropogenic impacts and can directly contribute to the understanding and design of effective restoration practices. Here, examples from different ecosystems (drylands, grasslands, shrublands, savannas, forests, coastal environments, and wetlands) brought together from around the world illustrate (1) how to develop appropriate restoration references under the current uncertain global change scenario; (2) how long-term perspectives on drivers of change can help to identify critical ecological elements, thus contributing to defining restoration goals; and (3) how to incorporate information from the past as guidance for present interventions and landscape management. The building of community and the specificity of paleoecological and historical records of ecological change over time will be key in facilitating the translation of long-term information into the living process of ecological restoration practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1335-1342
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number6
Early online date5 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2020


  • baseline
  • future scenarios
  • paleoecology
  • resilience
  • restoration goal
  • restoration reference


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