Watershed Restoration: Principles and Practices

Chapter 28: Eco-Societal Restoration: Creating a Harmonious Future Between Human Society and Natural Systems

J. Cairns, Jr.

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569049.ch28

Sustainable use of the planet will not be possible unless a new relationship develops between human society and natural systems. The first step in establishing this new relationship will be to establish a balance between ecological destruction and repair. This balance can be achieved by simultaneously reducing the rate of destruction and increasing the rate of repair until a steady state is reached that does not deprive future generations of either the ecological services (defined as those ecological functions perceived as beneficial by human society) or amenities that present generations now enjoy.

Eco-societal restoration is defined herein as ecological restoration with the human component of the ecosystem actively participating in the process, which usually requires a willingness to alter social behaviors to enhance the integrity of natural systems. The concept is based on the assumption that successful ecological restoration is most likely to occur at the landscape level (a scale large enough to include the heterogeneity in ecosystems) and both large temporal and spatial scales are routinely to be involved (e.g., NRC 1992a). Undertakings at a landscape level are either unlikely to be initiated or, once accomplished, unlikely to endure if human society affecting these ecosystems does not support both the restoration itself and the maintenance thereafter (e.g., Cairns 1994).