Reference Concepts in Ecosystem Restoration and Environmental Benefits Analysis (EBA): Principles and Practices
ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS VICKSBURG MS ENGINEER RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CENTER
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Though reference condition concepts are not explicitly required for use by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers USACE Civil Works Ecosystem Restoration practitioners, these concepts are often applied during ecosystem restoration project planning. Describing restoration objectives in a scientifically founded yet easily understandable way remains a challenge to the ecosystem restoration community. The application of reference concepts helps restoration practitioners overcome these challenges. A basic understanding of ecosystem structure and function through study and characterization of reference condition can influence how planning teams formulate planning objectives and alternatives, benchmark future ecological conditions, evaluate performance and sustainability, and seek to justify investments. Site-based reference characteristics, functions, and landscape position are critical considerations when evaluating plan alternatives in a systems context. Likewise, coherent approaches to developing references can serve as assets to planners investigating opportunities for ecosystem restoration investments at project, watershed, and system scales. The field of study for reference ecosystems is vast, with a recent emphasis on standardizing definitions, interpretation, and methods to create a more rigorous and pragmatic framework for ecosystem restoration practitioners Stoddard et al. 2006, Dufour and Piegay 2009. A scientifically valid lexicon and standardization of techniques for applying reference conditions during investigations and planning of ecosystem restoration actions can help to ensure that these concepts are applied properly to ecosystem restoration Stoddard et al. 2006. Ecosystem restoration history and state of the science are broadly established and reference concepts are widely used.
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