Historical information spanning different temporal scales (from tens to millions of years) can influence restoration practice by providing ecological context for better understanding of contemporary ecosystems. Ecological history provides clues about the assembly, structure, and dynamic nature of ecosystems, and this information can improve forecasting of how restored systems will respond to changes in climate, disturbance regimes, and other factors. History recorded by humans can be used to generate baselines for assessing changes in ecosystems, communities, and populations over time. Paleoecology pushes these baselines back hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years, offering insights into how past species assemblages have responded to changing disturbance regimes and climate. Furthermore, archeology can be used to reconstruct interactions between humans and their environment for which no documentary records exist. Going back further, phylogenies reveal patterns that emerged from coupled evolutionary-ecological processes over very long timescales. Increasingly, this information can be used to predict the stability, resilience, and functioning of assemblages into the future. We review examples in which recorded, archeological, paleoecological, and evolutionary information has been or could be used to inform goal setting, management, and monitoring for restoration. While we argue that longview historical ecology has much to offer restoration, there are few examples of restoration projects explicitly incorporating such information or of research that has evaluated the utility of such perspectives in applied management contexts. For these ideas to move from theory into practice, tests performed through research-management partnerships are needed to determine to what degree taking the long view can support achievement of restoration objectives.
- Climate change
- Ecosystem function