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Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

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UW Biology Colloquium highlights alternative approaches to restoration

University of British Columbia professor presents research on incorporating science, culture in conservation
Alex Moore/University of British Columbia
Alex Moore studies holistic restoration at the Rutgers Marine Field Station

April 20, University of British Columbia professor Alex Moore presented “Holistic Restoration — Incorporating Science and Culture into Conservation” as part of the University of Wisconsin Biology Colloquium. Moore’s talk highlighted how they incorporate diversity, equity, inclusion and justice into their research approach.

Moore introduced “holistic integration” as the core concept of their approach. To understand an ecosystem, people should value all sociocultural perspectives. Their research in the restoration field seeks to develop tools and techniques to assist recovery in impaired coastal ecosystems.

“Resource extraction, climate change and loss of specific species have a large influence on wetlands because they result in damage,” Moore said. “Like cutting down mangroves which protect coastlines, climate change has led to sea level rise and losing species that cause cascading effects damaging functionally and health of the ecosystem.”


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Moore highlighted a study that compares restored wetlands with healthy, untouched wetlands as this represents traditional methods for restoration analysis. The unharmed wetlands outperform restored wetlands in measures of species, diversity and natural resources. According to Moore, this research disregards humans as part of the ecosystem which has an impact on efforts for successful restoration and conservation.

“There are three general steps taken in restoration efforts that include stopping the cause of damage first, then rehabilitating the soil and hydrology,” Moore said. “This is important because this facilitates growth and addresses restoring vegetation.”

According to Moore, the foundation of restoration is the idea that repairing damaged plants enhances animal life, which helps the ecosystem as a whole. Rehabilitated plant life offers animals homes and resources. This is why Moore said a holistic restoration approach should be utilized, as it’s critical to consider every involved species.

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“We’re lacking the inclusion of differing species interaction, and we’re not incorporating human elements in this perspective,” Moore said. “This addresses the potential gray spaces that are prevalent in restoration ecology research, especially in wetland ecosystems.”

The traditional restoration approach is bottom-up, meaning lower levels are examined as the primary influence on the higher levels of an ecosystem. To combat this idea, Moore said their research approach suggests that it’s crucial to observe the entire ecosystem by adding a top-down approach. This approach incorporates humane effects such as sociocultural values, beliefs and practices of utmost importance.

Moore said in recent years, they’ve focused on working with the community members living in the ecosystem for a better understanding of the community members’ relationships with the landscape. Recognizing the local perspective allows Moore to consider the influence on the human community with restoration activities.

“The principles of the restoration field were built on unjust policies and practices of owning or selling land,” Moore said. “As a result, there’s a lot we don’t know about ecosystems from lack of information of those native to the ecosystem.”

Additionally, Moore said previous conservation actions have mainly aimed to keep humans away from nature. These practices result from the stigma of human relationships with nature being primarily destructive. Instead, Moore strives for a successful version of conservation by complementing human influence and needs.

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There’s a critical importance of asking permission and labor efforts from the ecosystem residents being studied. Moore said that without community support for their research, it’s virtually impossible and unethical.

“Overall, it’s quintessential to evaluate practices and policies that induce successful conservation because it requires participation from diverse actors and different kinds of knowledge systems,” Moore said.

Moore considers the spaces where humans encounter nature as an opportunity to give compassion as the most rewarding part of research is the appreciation and feedback from community interactions.

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