The only thing about riding a bike from Portland to Phoenix is that in-between there is something called... NEVADA.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Chapter Two: Environmental Virtues and the Aims of Restoration. William M. Throop

From chapter two, I find two themes interesting to discuss. First is the concept of "historical fidelity" within a restoration program. This is the idea that the restoration goals for a disturbed place should aim to return that area to a state as close as possible to the pre-disturbance conditions. This model is often used in restoration programs, but in the context of a shifting climate it may not always be appropriate. Species and communities of species that lived in an area under previous climatic conditions may not survive under current or future conditions. However, historical fidelity can still be a strong guiding principle. As ecosystems are very complex and understanding of their dynamics is often incomplete, knowledge of what existed in a particular place in the past can help inform future restoration. How else can we proceed with large-scale landscape manipulation than by using previously functional ecosystems as a model?

The second interesting theme from chapter two concerns different ways to view ourselves as restorationists. They are: as gardeners, as designers, or as healers. In brief, the author argues that the gardener and designer roles are too anthropocentric and would prioritize humancentric ecosystem services. Also, unlike healing, gardening and designing do not require an injury as their impetus. The author argues that the healing metaphor is best because it is more guiding than controlling.

"A conservative approach to restoration in cases of climate change will focus on removing that which harmed the system and letting it heal. Most historical ecosystems have withstood the test of time, responding effectively to shifting inputs. The healing metaphor suggests that we should work with that resilience. Climate change may send a system onto a new trajectory, and we may be able to accurately predict many local changes that will occur, such as migration of species. The aim of historical fidelity permits restorationists to take such predictable changes into account, but not to engage in wholesale reconstruction of a system."


  1. Sounds like an interesting book. The author makes some good points. I like the idea of humans as healers of the environments that have been damaged by our actions.

  2. The world is changing. It is certainly important to understand the nature of the change and to make predictions about the way in which it might affect ecological systems. It sounds like "historical fidelity" looks at the way in which an ecosystem system has behaved in the past. Does it take into account its future state, especially in novel conditions? It makes sense that knowing how a system behaves, as a whole, can help understand how it might/will change.

    I would think that the vulnerability of a species (plant or animal) to environmental change depends on the species' exposure and sensitivity to environmental change, its resilience to disturbance and its potential to adapt to change. It makes sense that these factors be examined before a restoration effort is made. Also, I can see how questions about the impact of environmental change needs to be addressed, in order to understand what, if any, action might be taken to amend it. I can also see how allowing a system to heal on it’s own would let the species best suited to that environment to thrive.

    I also don’t think we can entirely move away from a humancentric ecosystem. People have been cultivating plants for 10,000 years. Thus creating an artificial environment favoring food crops and ornamentals. In the case of food crops, it is necessary for our survival. We still need the gardener and the designer in our urban areas, but a more conservative approach would be better, such as the “permaculture” approach, which takes into account the system as a whole. I like to believe we can learn to garden and design in healing way.