Organizational capacity and ecological restoration

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Organizations entrusted with responsibilities and resources to repair ecosystems have for many decades pursued their defining purpose against long odds created by a host of inherent challenges, notably the long time frames required for ecological recovery and landscape-level stressors. Global change compounds these challenges, increasing shocks to the operating environments of these organizations. Interest in assessing organizational capacity to respond to system shocks (i.e. resilience) productively has been strong in many fields, though not in the restoration arena. The objectives of this paper are to build awareness of the importance of organizations for achieving the aims of restoration and to spur organizational research to strengthen the restoration sector. I summarize research on organizations relevant to the restoration sector and with this foundation propose a framework for assessing the capacity of restoration organizations. The proposed framework is an adaptation of models used in other sectors, based on five critical capacities: situation awareness, governance and leadership, internal resources, external relations, and change readiness. We can assess the extent to which an organization possesses each capacity by eliciting feedback about functions linked to each capacity. Devising assessment tools from this framework requires attention to key realities of the restoration sector including prevalence of short-term funding, effect of externalities on restoration outcomes, dependence on partnerships of multiple organizations for complex and large restorations. Exploration into assessment approaches for restoration organizations highlights a major knowledge gap that, if addressed, could enhance the reliability of restoration as a global and local strategy for improving ecosystems services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13757
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author would like to thank D. Larkin, K. Nelson, S. Murphy, and an anonymous reviewer who provided critical reviews of early drafts of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author. Restoration Ecology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Ecological Restoration.


  • conservation organizations
  • ecosystem restoration
  • organizational functions
  • organizational resilience
  • strategic planning


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