The 2015 AGM of the Ontario Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration
Most of the lineup: Heather Cray (CaRE), Josh Shea (CaRE), Michael McTavish (CaRE), smurph, Perin Ruttonsha, Peter Beckett, Daniel Campbell
[CaRE’s Dianne Watkins was helping close up and CVC’s Kate Hayes & Scott Simpson had to go back to work – on a Saturday, so how about that, taxpayers?]
The SER Ontario AGM and Workshop was held at the University of Waterloo on November 14 and we had an overflow crowd and CaRE’s Patricia Huynh was the emcee!
Lead us, O Patricia!
The subject was Novel Ecosystems and the allied concept of Socioecological Resilience. It was led off by the past-chair of SERO and current Editor in Chief of Restoration Ecology, Stephen Murphy. Steve set the stage for the day by focusing on the utility of the novel ecosystems concept, noting that is akin to triage in some cases.
CaRE must be in the front row…. PhD student Patricia Huynh (emcee!),
MES student Gwyn Govers, MES student Tomm Mandryk
CaRE watches closely – PhD student Erica Calder & MES student Emily Trendos
The main message was that we are beginning to understand how novel ecosystems can be used as a management framework, how we can measure when we cross a threshold to a novel ecosystem and how the concept focuses on restoring as much native species diversity and functionality even if the local ecosystem can no longer meet the ideal of being fidelous to a reference state.
A series of talks from graduate students in the University of Waterloo’s School of Environment, Resource & Sustainability ensued, with Cristobal Pizzaro first up and focused on using migratory birds and human immigrants as proxies for examining the social dimensions of the Anthropocene.
And the CaRE took center stage for a couple of hours. Michael McTavish outlined how we can design better restoration objectives and approaches for ecosystems that have become novel via invasions of exotic earthworms that will be impossible to dislodge.
Dianne Watkins’ work examined how socioecological resilience can be achieved in urban natural areas and that included the notion of sustainable harvests of exotic species as food, turning the process into one of using novel ecosystems as an agroecosystem which can then be restored to a higher standard of function and diversity once exotics are harvested.
Heather Cray explained that while we seem to know a lot about prairie restoration, a lot of it is actually creating prairies as novel ecosystems and some of the techniques are confided to the grey literature and not tested formally in any experimental and quantitative way.
Josh Shea outlined how he – as graduate student and a City natural areas manager – has found the novel ecosystems concept to be very useful as a management tool; he particularly noted that it does not give license for ‘anything goes’ but guides managers to alternative stable states, restoration goals, and laddered approaches wherein exotic species may be allow to exist for a time because they provide the only food source left for desirable species like rare or uncommon migratory native species of birds.
SERS’ Perin Ruttonsha (with Steve Quilley) finished the morning with a tour de force that examined Big History and the Big Picture of how novel ecosystem fits into the notion of more resilient and innovative socioecological systems.
In the afternoon, Kate Hayes and Scott Sampson of the Credit Valley Conservation Authority did a groundbreaking presentation of how they have used the novel ecosystems concept in working with land and water management, especially given that there are (for example) housing developments that have been long approved and are legally binding. They showed how it was possible to restore to historical conditions in some cases, in other cases the historical conditions were an illusion to begin with, and in still others how novel ecosystems could be a positive if planned and implemented well – they need not be a negative. SERO was fortunate to have their experience.
Our final two presentations were from one of the hubs of restoration in Canada, Laurentian University in Sudbury. The legendary Peter Beckett gave an eloquent, strategic and well detailed presentation on one of the most famous restoration and rehabilitation experiments and outcomes – the legacy of Sudbury’s industrial landscape. This is an excellent example of how restoring to a novel ecosystems state and function was necessary but still has accomplished so much, so fast given that legacy. The area is still under restoration efforts but the positive impacts on the ecosystem as well as the human community are something to be celebrated and emulated.
Daniel Campbell completed our presentations with a sophisticated study of mining sites in the Arctic wherein they recommend restoration to broader functional/diversity outcomes related to effect size rather than specific endpoints. The area has been mined for diamonds and was peatland but now has upland landforms that can host what Daniel classifies as hybrid ecosystems that create and sustain valuable functions, i.e. ecosystem services.
SERO Members were given good news about our financial state and activities; our student members have very active in local university and college chapters and are planning a meeting in 2016 so stay tuned! Repairing for dinner and beverages, the SERO crowd colonized (invaded?) a local pub to restore our energy.
2015 SERO Board at the AGM held November at the School of Environment, Resources & Sustainability, University of Waterloo: Rachel Voros, Sal Spitale (CaRE alumnus), Smurph, Steve Smith, Dale Leadbeater, Ash Baron (CaRE alumnus), Nigel Finney (CaRE alumnus), Jeff Warren. Absent: Jenny Foster, Megan Ihrig (CaRE alumnus).