We study ecosystem recovery after anthropogenic disturbance
We aim to understand patterns and mechanisms of the recovery of ecosystem complexity after anthropogenic disturbance. Our findings strive to improve current efforts and strategies to restore degraded ecosystems and conserve “undisturbed” ones. We combine observations and experimental research with meta-analysis in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in all impacted biomes, including plant-fungi-insect networks in medieval iron opencast mines in temperate Europe to plant community composition and biogeochemical functions of Old Norse settlements in subarctic Greenland.
1. The legacy of human disturbance
Human activities degrade totally or partially ecosystems, making them less diverse, less functional and more vulnerable to further change. For years, we have been quantifying the effects of disturbance on ecosystem diversity and function, but less has been known about the effects of disturbance on their recovery. One may think that thanks to the restoration of degraded ecosystems, we can bring back lost biodiversity and functions, and even justify further degradation
2. Long-term recovery of ecosystem complexity
One of the most relevant questions in conservation biology is to estimate the magnitude of anthropogenic disturbance, that is, what would it take for an ecosystem to fully recover? A common problem to respond to this question is to choose what to measure to quantify disturbance or recovery. Unfortunately, with present knowledge and technology it is not possible to measure a whole ecosystem.