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Monday, April 9 • 3:45pm - 4:00pm
SYMPOSIA-08: Designing Restorations to Inform Conservation Practice and Ecological Theory: Lessons from Long-term Studies in Tallgrass Prairie

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AUTHORS: Sara G. Baer, Department of Plant Biology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale

ABSTRACT: A major limitation to advancing ecological theory and its application to ecological restoration is the existence of landscape-scale experimental frameworks designed to capture community and ecosystem responses to manipulated, natural, and anthropogenic changes in ecological drivers. The power to predict ecological responses to restoration and plan conservation strategies for the future ultimately depends on developing restoration designs with adequate statistical rigor to generate a degree of certainty about responses and ability to forecast change. To build such understanding, ecological drivers can be manipulated simultaneously in time and space. Long-term studies in native and restored prairie demonstrate dynamic and unexpected community responses to field-scale management (i.e., fire and grazing) and small-scale variation in soil resources. When manipulating ecological drivers, sampling needs to be scaled to account for functionally different species. Assessing community response to variation in regional ecological drivers can be addressed by restoring vegetation at the same time in different places. These studies offer insights into ecological-evolutionary relationships, but are complicated by uncontrolled variation in multiple environmental conditions. Community responses to environmental variation can also be tested by using comparable restoration methods in the same place at different times. This approach is being used to reveal the role of interannual variation in climate and other stochastic factors on the development of grassland states. A drawback to this approach is reliance on nature to provide temporal variability in environmental conditions. Lastly, restorations conducted using comparable methods at different times and different places with similar conditions enables space-for-time substitutions that can be used to model and predict long-term changes from a one-time sampling. In sum, for restorations to inform practice and advance ecological knowledge, they need to be designed for short- and long-term hypothesis testing.

Monday April 9, 2018 3:45pm - 4:00pm CDT
Hancock Parlor