The long-term restoration of ecosystem complexity


Multiple large-scale restoration strategies are emerging globally to counteract ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss. However, restoration often remains insufficient to offset that loss. To address this challenge, we propose to focus restoration science on the long-term (centuries to millennia) re-assembly of degraded ecosystem complexity integrating interaction network and evolutionary potential approaches. This approach provides insights into eco-evolutionary feedbacks determining the structure, functioning and stability of recovering ecosystems. Eco-evolutionary feedbacks may help to understand changes in the adaptive potential after disturbance of metacommunity hub species with core structural and functional roles for their use in restoration. Those changes can be studied combining a restoration genomics approach based on whole-genome sequencing with replicated space-for-time substitutions linking changes in genetic variation to functions or traits relevant to the establishment of evolutionarily resilient communities. This approach may set the knowledge basis for future tools to accelerate the restoration of ecosystems able to adapt to ongoing global changes.

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Fig. 1: Global restoration initiatives.

European Union, 1995–2020 (European Commission logo) under a Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 licence; New York Declaration on Forests Global Platform, United Nations Development Programme (New York Declaration on Forests Global Platform symbol); Convention on Biological Diversity (Convention on Biological Diversity symbol and Aichi Biodiversity Target symbols); United Nations (UN/SDG; SDG symbol)

Fig. 2: Meta-analyses on restoration performance.

The Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (background landscape elements;

Fig. 3: Measures of recovery through time.
Fig. 4: Approaches to analyse genomic variation.
Fig. 5: Future steps to improve restoration science and derived management actions.

The Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (background landscapes elements, tree and insect images;


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D.M.-M. has been funded for this research by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competiveness through Societal Challenge Program (grant no. CGL2015-70452-R) and María de Maeztu excellence accreditation MDM-2017-0714. A.A. was funded by Lundbeckfonden (grant no. R250-2017-1351). E.M. is supported through a NWO-Veni grant (863.15.021). A.R.-U. was funded by an Environmental Fellowship Program from Fundación “Tatiana Pérez de Guzmán el Bueno” in 2016. D.M. was funded by the French ANR through LabEx TULIP (ANR-10-LABX-41; ANR-11-IDEX-002-02) and by the European Research Council (FRAGCLIM Consolidator Grant no. 726176).

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D.M.-M. and A.A. conceived the idea and wrote the manuscript. D.M., E.M., A.R.-U. and W.H.v.d.P. wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to David Moreno-Mateos.

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Moreno-Mateos, D., Alberdi, A., Morriën, E. et al. The long-term restoration of ecosystem complexity. Nat Ecol Evol 4, 676–685 (2020).

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