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Restoration ecology as a practice

Task:

1) We broadly discussed restoration ecology as a practice in class. However, we did not cover with much depth the specific approaches to restoration ecology in different biomes or types of ecosystems. Not diving into depth was by design: the principles and practices of stream restoration are vastly different than what is required to restore prairie ecosystems, for example.

Consider just one of the three ecosystems, and associated organisms that are often targeted for restoration, in the list below:

  • Rivers and streams degraded by dams and land use change in the Pacific Northwest of North America; anadromous salmonids in the genusOncorhynchus.
  • The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in North America;Crassostrea virginica oysters
  • North American tallgrass prairie ecosystems of North America; threatened and endangered species of tallgrass prairie vascular plants

Each of the above systems and associated organisms has been the subject of restoration projects worth millions (in some cases, billions) of dollars. Choose one of the systems and provide an overview of the state-of-the-science when it comes to efforts to restore one of these ecosystems. Consider each of the following questions in your response: what are the environmental stressors that have caused the decline in the organism of interest? What attempts at restoration have been attempted and have they realized success? Do restoration efforts address specific ecosystem functions and services when applied and, if so, which ones? What challenges remain to restore the ecosystem to a greater degree and/or what questions regarding restoration ecology of these systems remain to be answered?

2) Data visualization: Consider the paper González-Varo et al. (2015), which shows how a common shrub in the Mediterranean biome exhibits an extinction debt following land clearance. Use this to acquire the data needed. The paper provides all data used to generate the findings, allowing us to explore a few additional aspects of this great dataset. Create the following plots:

  • A bar-or box-and-whisker plot that shows the difference in distributions between patch sizes with Myrtus communis present versus those without the shrub present.
  • A bar-or box-and-whisker plot that shows the difference in distributions between degree of habitat disturbance between patches with Myrtus communis present versus those without the shrub present.
  • A scatterplot, on log-log axis scales, that show the relationship between the percent of woodland cover surrounding a 2-km radius of the plot in 1956 (R2_1956) and the same variable measured in 2002 (R2_2002).

If you create a bar plot, be sure to include error bars representing either standard deviation, standard error, or 95% confidence intervals.

Considering the first two plots listed above, which variable appears to be more influential in determining whether or not Myrtus communis is present? Why did you come to this conclusion? Considering the third plot, how well does patch size today predict patch size approximately 50 years from now? Do the findings suggest that conservationists can use contemporary patch sizes to predict M. communis presence in the future?

3) Experimental design dissection: Human-driven habitat fragmentation typically negatively impacts all organisms, from plants to large predatory animals. However, one biological attribute that can buffer a population from impact is dispersal ability. Birds capable of flight should theoretically be terrific dispersers, as they possess the ability to simply fly over non-habitat. Consider the two papers Cornelius et al. (2017) and Pakanen et al. (2017) that explore the effects of habitat fragmentation on birds in two very different ecosystems. Despite the different settings and species, these two papers offer related messages with respect to bird conservation in fragmented habitats. After reading the papers and filling out the scientific dissection worksheets, write a single paragraph that outlines what we may conclude from these two papers with an emphasis on how bird populations may evolve over generations to cope with a fragmented landscape.

4) Integrating

Task:

1) We broadly discussed restoration ecology as a practice in class. However, we did not cover with much depth the specific approaches to restoration ecology in different biomes or types of ecosystems. Not diving into depth was by design: the principles and practices of stream restoration are vastly different than what is required to restore prairie ecosystems, for example.

Consider just one of the three ecosystems, and associated organisms that are often targeted for restoration, in the list below:

  • Rivers and streams degraded by dams and land use change in the Pacific Northwest of North America; anadromous salmonids in the genusOncorhynchus.
  • The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in North America;Crassostrea virginica oysters
  • North American tallgrass prairie ecosystems of North America; threatened and endangered species of tallgrass prairie vascular plants

Each of the above systems and associated organisms has been the subject of restoration projects worth millions (in some cases, billions) of dollars. Choose one of the systems and provide an overview of the state-of-the-science when it comes to efforts to restore one of these ecosystems. Consider each of the following questions in your response: what are the environmental stressors that have caused the decline in the organism of interest? What attempts at restoration have been attempted and have they realized success? Do restoration efforts address specific ecosystem functions and services when applied and, if so, which ones? What challenges remain to restore the ecosystem to a greater degree and/or what questions regarding restoration ecology of these systems remain to be answered?

2) Data visualization: Consider the paper González-Varo et al. (2015), which shows how a common shrub in the Mediterranean biome exhibits an extinction debt following land clearance. Use this to acquire the data needed. The paper provides all data used to generate the findings, allowing us to explore a few additional aspects of this great dataset. Create the following plots:

  • A bar-or box-and-whisker plot that shows the difference in distributions between patch sizes with Myrtus communis present versus those without the shrub present.
  • A bar-or box-and-whisker plot that shows the difference in distributions between degree of habitat disturbance between patches with Myrtus communis present versus those without the shrub present.
  • A scatterplot, on log-log axis scales, that show the relationship between the percent of woodland cover surrounding a 2-km radius of the plot in 1956 (R2_1956) and the same variable measured in 2002 (R2_2002).

If you create a bar plot, be sure to include error bars representing either standard deviation, standard error, or 95% confidence intervals.

Considering the first two plots listed above, which variable appears to be more influential in determining whether or not Myrtus communis is present? Why did you come to this conclusion? Considering the third plot, how well does patch size today predict patch size approximately 50 years from now? Do the findings suggest that conservationists can use contemporary patch sizes to predict M. communis presence in the future?

3) Experimental design dissection: Human-driven habitat fragmentation typically negatively impacts all organisms, from plants to large predatory animals. However, one biological attribute that can buffer a population from impact is dispersal ability. Birds capable of flight should theoretically be terrific dispersers, as they possess the ability to simply fly over non-habitat. Consider the two papers Cornelius et al. (2017) and Pakanen et al. (2017) that explore the effects of habitat fragmentation on birds in two very different ecosystems. Despite the different settings and species, these two papers offer related messages with respect to bird conservation in fragmented habitats. After reading the papers and filling out the scientific dissection worksheets, write a single paragraph that outlines what we may conclude from these two papers with an emphasis on how bird populations may evolve over generations to cope with a fragmented landscape.

4) Integrating the SLP (approximately 1.5-2 pages, double spaced academic writing not including references)The common theme between both SLP efforts this year is the spread of invasive plants in our forested ecosystems. The negative impact of invasive plants has not been lost on agencies charged with managing aquatic or terrestrial habitat. For riparian habitat (the aquatic SLP) or deciduous forest understories (the terrestrial SLP), consider the following questions: how can we successfully manage the invasive species we are investigating? What ecosystem attributes must we take into consideration if we are to attempt a restoration program? How does habitat fragmentation at the landscape scale impact the answers to these questions?

the SLP (approximately 1.5-2 pages, double spaced academic writing not including references)The common theme between both SLP efforts this year is the spread of invasive plants in our forested ecosystems. The negative impact of invasive plants has not been lost on agencies charged with managing aquatic or terrestrial habitat. For riparian habitat (the aquatic SLP) or deciduous forest understories (the terrestrial SLP), consider the following questions: how can we successfully manage the invasive species we are investigating? What ecosystem attributes must we take into consideration if we are to attempt a restoration program? How does habitat fragmentation at the landscape scale impact the answers to these questions?

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