AABR draws specific attention to the pivotal role that natural regeneration plays in all ecological restoration and ecological rehabilitation projects.
AABR is primarily concerned with the conservation-based management of natural areas; promoting the goals of protecting, maintaining and, where impaired, reinstating the health of ecosystem. The latter is achieved through the practice of ‘ecological restoration’.
Ecological restoration is the intentional practice of reducing causes of degradation and assisting the recovery of locally occurring ecosystems, taking into account ecosystem change.
Projects could be termed an ‘ecological restoration’ project if (a) the goal of restoration is both stated and feasible (at least in the long term); (b) the activities undertaken aim for the highest standard possible considering current resource and knowledge limitations; and, (c) if the activities do not create any further negative impacts.
Different approaches to restoration are invariably needed, matched to differently degraded parts of a site or landscape. At the low degradation end, for example, a ‘natural regeneration’ approach is likely to be all that is needed, with ‘assisted natural regeneration’ interventions being needed for sites of intermediate degradation. High level degradation requires a reconstruction approach unless sufficiently long time frames are available for natural recolonization.
Where conditions have changed so much that restoration of the previous community is not feasible, there can be value in transforming the degraded ecological community (or a small part of it) to an alternative locally occurring community better suited to the changed conditions. Whatever the level of degradation, managers are encouraged to still aim for the highest practicable similarity with pre-existing ecosystem. Such ‘restorative’ improvements can be termed ecological rehabilitation (sometimes referred to as ‘restorative management’) and can be considered of equal importance to ecological restoration because ecosystem function within modified landscapes contributes to the function of all ecosystem.