Opportunities and challenges of integrating ecological restoration into assessment and management of contaminated ecosystems

Ruth N. Hull, Samuel N. Luoma, Bruce A. Bayne, John Iliff, Daniel J. Larkin, Mark W. Paschke, Sasha L. Victor, Sara E. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Ecosystem restoration planning near the beginning of the site assessment and management process ("early integration") involves consideration of restoration goals from the outset in developing solutions for contaminated ecosystems. There are limitations to integration that stem from institutional barriers, few successful precedents, and limited availability of guidance. Challenges occur in integrating expertise from various disciplines and multiple, sometimes divergent interests and goals. The more complex process can result in timing, capacity, communication, and collaboration challenges. On the other hand, integrating the 2 approaches presents new and creative opportunities. For example, integration allows early planning for expanding ecosystem services on or near contaminated lands or waters that might otherwise have been unaddressed by remediation alone. Integrated plans can explicitly pursue ecosystem services that have market value, which can add to funds for long-term monitoring and management. Early integration presents opportunities for improved and productive collaboration and coordination between ecosystem restoration and contaminant assessment and management. Examples exist where early integration facilitates liability resolution and generates positive public relations. Restoration planning and implementation before the completion of the contaminated site assessment, remediation, or management process ("early restoration") can facilitate coordination with offsite restoration options and a regional approach to restoration of contaminated environments. Integration of performance monitoring, for both remedial and restoration actions, can save resources and expand the interpretive power of results. Early integration may aid experimentation, which may be more feasible on contaminated lands than in many other situations. The potential application of concepts and tools from adaptive management is discussed as a way of avoiding pitfalls and achieving benefits in early integration. In any case, there will be challenges with early integration of restoration concepts for contaminated ecosystems, but the benefits are likely to outweigh them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)296-305
Number of pages10
JournalIntegrated environmental assessment and management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 SETAC.


  • Early integration
  • Ecosystem services
  • Monitoring
  • Restoration


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