Category Archives: novel ecosystems

We went to ESA 2016. Boy, did we ever

I’ll post the scientific stuff soon enough.  Below are some pics of the crew and friends. We know how to do conferences right. Patricia Huynh, Heather Cray, and Michael McTavish rocked the conference.  The usual suspects included Richard Hobbs, Eric Higgs, Bryan Norton, Steve Jackson, Allen Thompson, Edie Allen, George Gann, Brandon Bestelmeyer below – not too shabby a group.  It was great to hang out with Lars Brudvig and lab.  And catching up with Carolina Murcia was a real bonus on the last day of the conference.

smurphcare students busy as bees…literally

The wacky 2016 weather meant a slow start but then a sudden plunge into field season – the phenology is running 2-3 weeks ahead.  We’ll need to catch up with posting in the fall.  For now, here’s some shots of what Tomm Mandryk (using burn boxes to simulate prescribed burns for restoration), Heather Cray (assessing prairie restoration), Michael McTavish (earthworm impacts), Patricia Huynh (urban impacts on conservation and restoration), Jonas Hamberg (assessing success of ecological restoration) and others have been up to:

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The 2015 AGM of the Ontario Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration

The 2015 AGM of the Ontario Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration

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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!

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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.

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CaRE must be in the front row…. PhD student Patricia Huynh (emcee!),
MES student Gwyn Govers, MES student Tomm Mandryk

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

Novel ecosystems in the Waterloo Region

One of the larger projects my students and I are working on is the application of novel ecosystems management schemes to urban parks.  Despite what some may claim, this is not giving up on ecological restoration.  To the contrary, the novel ecosystems framework helps managers decide on when a park has crossed an ecological or economic or social threshold that makes restoration to some ideal historical range of variation unlikely or perhaps impossible (though we scientists rarely like that word – improbable is better).

Students Josh Shea and Dianne Watkins lead this effort, in places like Homer Watson Park and the Huron Natural Area. Former students Sal Spitale, and Katelyn Inlow began the work.

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SmurphCaRE @ Society for Ecological Restoration World Conference 2015 Manchester UK

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Alan Turing memorial, Sackville Park, Manchester UK

The smurphcare crew took Manchester UK by storm – delivering a series of excellent talks, workshops, and posters.

London Road (Manchester) old fire station, London Road, Piccadilly, Manchester, Greater Manchester

Old firehall (London Road) Manchester UK

As usual, we helped drive the social aspects of the whole conference experience, with much merryment and serious chats about research with old and new friends.

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John Rylands Library in Mannchester UK

Our circle includes stalwarts like SER Chair Al Unwin, Restoration Ecology ME Valter Amaral, Jim Hallett, Loretta Battaglia, Brandon Bestlemeyer, Stu Allison, Nancy Shackleford, Peter Bridgewater, Heather Bateman, Vicky Temperton, Karen Keenleyside, Allen Thompson, Dan Spencer, Marcus Collier, An Cliquet, Karel Prach – and former SER Chairs, George Gann, Jim Harris, Eric Higgs, & Steve Whisenant.

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clockwise from upper left back: Dianne, Alex, Michael, Heather, Patricia, Smurph
(via Heather Bateman)

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Brandon and Eric

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Loretta (she is not bitter; just this beer is bitter)

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Brandon and Jim Harris

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Michael, Patricia, Alex, Heather + Valter

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Al Unwin, Jim Hallett, SER’s Levi Wickwire, Valter, George Gann

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Al, smurph, Jim and Moira Harris, Allen, Eric, Karen

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Patricia’s poster with Jim and Moira Harris

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Alex and her poster

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Valter, Steve Whisenant, Stu Allison

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The resilience symposium goes to dinner

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Most of the smurphcrew and friends

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Manchester City Hall

Our Talks:

Creating tallgrass prairie from retired cropland: Initial results. H.A. Cray, M.J.M. McTavish, S.D. Murphy, Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada.

Managing for the forest not the trees: beyond the vertices of historical, hybrid, and novel. S. Murphy, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada

Learning to live with belowground novelty: Integrating exotic earthworms into the restoration of
abandoned agricultural lands. M.J.M. McTavish, H.A. Cray, S.D. Murphy, Environment & Resource Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada.

Adding insult to injury: resilient but undesirable ecosystems are created by poor land use decisions
& an ice storm. S.D. Murphy, Department of Environment & Resource Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada

Examining best management practices for roadside ecological restoration through seed mix germination rates in fine textured soils. A. Novacic1, S. Murphy1, D. McGrath2 – 1Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada, 2Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Vineland, Canada

Towards improved social and ecological urban resilience, via assessment of plant community nutrient. density in protected areas in Kitchener, Ontario. D. Watkins, S.D. Murphy, Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada

Assessing the efficacy of livestock restriction in rural creeks of the Grand River watershed to improve water quality. P. Huynh, S. Murphy, S Courtenay – Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada.

Getting published in Restoration Ecology: A workshop for students and early career professionals. SD Murphy and V Amaral.

Teaching restoration: global perspectives to local outcomes. M Hughes, SD Murphy, E Higgs.

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SER 2015 or Ninja Warriors? You choose – but choose wisely