Application of ecological theory to determining recovery potential of disturbed lotic ecosystems: Research needs and priorities

James A. Gore, John R. Kelly, J. David Yount

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


This article summarizes the views of aquatic scientists who gathered to assess the ability of stream ecosystem theory to predict recovery from disturbance. Two views of disturbance were evident: a discrete removal of organisms vs an unusual deviation from normal. These were perceived as applying to different scales and/or objectives. Long-term information is required from both points of view to define recovery. Recovery also may be defined in different ways, but it is clear that recovery has both spatial and temporal components, and includes both physical and biological processes. Consensus was very strong that a major role (and challenge) for theory lies in the understanding of spatial aspects, temporal scales, coupling of physics and biology, and the interaction of these features in recovery processes. Some progress is evident in the articles of this volume, but among the topics identified as critical for further theoretical contributions were: homogeneous vs heterogeneous distribution of disturbance, local extent of disturbance relative to a regional context, critical vs noncritical patches (size and location) of disturbance at different spatial scales and temporal frequencies, delineation of reversible and nonreversible processes, and physical and biological constraints on the time frame for recovery. Such concepts need attention across different types of lotic ecosystems. Thus, there was strong consensus that a national monitoring system of representative lotic ecosystems within ecological regions be established. The purpose of this monitoring system would be to acquire long-term data on natural variability, to establish viable indicators of spatial and temporal aspects of recovery, and to develop and test emerging theoretical developments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)755-762
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1990


  • Disturbance
  • Lotic ecosystems
  • Prediction
  • Recovery
  • Research needs


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