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What about cultural ecosystems? Opportunities for cultural considerations in the “International Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration”

Evans, Nicole M., Davis, Mark A.
Restoration ecology 2018 v.26 no.4 pp. 612-617
burning, climate, ecological restoration, ecosystems, environmental impact, hydrologic engineering, urban areas
The Society for Ecological Restoration's 2016 (SER) “International Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration” is a living document intended to guide restoration projects “anywhere in the world.” Given its intended global scope and in hopes of informing future editions, this document is critically assessed in light of the role people have played in ecosystems around the world. We argue that the Standards has an underlying nature–culture dichotomization that limits its applicability; in qualifying what it calls “cultural ecosystems” for rehabilitation, rather than restoration, the Standards privileges colonial visions of ecological restoration. We also discuss the Standards' representation of the ecological impacts and practices of indigenous groups. Whereas the Standards claims that preindustrial cultural ecosystems exist in states similar to unmodified areas, many historians, anthropologists, and paleoecologists would point out that preindustrial people sometimes had massive environmental impacts through agriculture, hydrological engineering, over‐hunting, living in dense urban environments, transporting species, burning on a scale capable of changing the climate, and other practices. Furthermore, the Standards does not discuss how the cultural goals of indigenous groups fit into the overall picture of ecological restoration. Future drafts of the Standards should more accurately frame the diverse roles people play in nature, and create global standards that account for the validity of cultural goals for ecological restoration.