If ecosystem restoration hasn’t been based on evidence in the past, what has it been based on?
The recognition that we are in the distinct new epoch of the Anthropocene suggests the necessity for ecological restoration to play a substantial role in repairing the Earth’s damaged ecosystems. Moreover, the precious yet limited resources devoted to restoration need to be used wisely. To do so, we call for the ecological restoration community to embrace the concept of evidence-based restoration. Evidence-based restoration involves the use of rigorous, repeatable, and transparent methods (i.e. systematic reviews) to identify and amass relevant knowledge sources, critically evaluate the science, and synthesize the credible science to yield robust policy and/or management advice needed to restore the Earth’s ecosystems. There are now several examples of restoration-relevant systematic reviews that have identified instances where restoration is entirely ineffective. Systematic reviews also serve as a tool to identify the knowledge gaps and the type of science needed (e.g. repeatable, appropriate replication, use of controls) to improve the evidence base. The restoration community, including both scientists and practitioners, needs to make evidence-based restoration a reality so that we can move from best intentions and acting with so-called “purpose” to acting for meaningful impact. Doing so has the potential to serve as a rallying point for reframing the Anthropocene as a so-called “good” epoch.