Habitat restoration and the recovery of metacommunities.

Published online
08 Jan 2024
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Gawecka, K. A. & Bascompte, J.
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Ecosystem restoration is becoming a widely recognised solution to the biodiversity crisis. However, there is still a gap between restoration science and practice. Specifically, we lack a theoretical framework that would improve our understanding of ecosystems' recovery and allow us to optimise restoration design. Here, we narrow this gap by developing spatially explicit metacommunity models and studying the recovery dynamics of communities during restoration. We show that community response depends on how damaged the landscape is prior to restoration, with highly fragmented landscapes imposing greater challenges to community recovery. In such cases, recovery depends on the type of interaction and the structure of the interaction network. Furthermore, we demonstrate that community recovery can be maximised with careful spatial planning. Specifically, when recovering communities composed of antagonistic interactions, restoration should target areas adjacent to the most species-rich sites. In the case of mutualistic communities, the same strategy should be adopted in the short term, whereas in the long term, restoration should be extended to sites that improve the overall connectivity of the landscape. Synthesis and applications: Our results highlight the importance of considering interactions between species and spatial planning in restoration projects. Moreover, they provide insights into improving the efficiency of restoration and, thus, can help guide the design of restoration projects.

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