Realistic restoration – addressing stakeholder values

Countries have made ambitious commitments to restore vegetation on degraded land in the coming years. These include large-scale restoration projects such as the Atlantic Forest Restoration Pact and the United Nations Billion Trees Campaign.

Careful planning and clear objectives are needed to ensure restoration projects can achieve their targets with the funds allocated but they often involve numerous and diverse stakeholders who have different objectives, values and expectations.

A paper published in Restoration Ecology, led by Luc Hoffmann Institute Fellow Angela Guerrero, shows how conservation projects can make use of a formal decision support framework called structured decision making (SDM). This helps to integrate the values and preferences of multiple stakeholders for more effective and sustainable decisions.

Using a case of ecological restoration in southeast Queensland, Australia, Guerrero and colleagues demonstrate the approach using a combination of stakeholder surveys, workshops, specific steps for setting objectives and a mechanism for capturing different stakeholder values.

At the core of the approach is the ‘why is that important?’ test used to help separate fundamental aims from a much broader list of methods, process and strategic objectives.

The SDM process has helped clarify the fundamental outcomes that matter in deciding how to allocate funds and establish objectives that are transparent and inclusive. The team has also compiled critical new information on the costs and timeframes required to recover vegetation across different ecosystems and locations. This will guide future management decisions about where to undertake restoration work in an environment where there are competing priorities, it is not possible to do everything at once and there are aspirations to maximise return on investment.

Since the workshops, our research team has been working with the City of Gold Coast local government to develop a new decision support tool to help allocate funds for vegetation recovery across approximately 800 conservation parks, covering 12,000 hectares. We hope this experience can be used to guide restoration efforts elsewhere,” Guerrero explains.

Read the paper Using structured decision making to set restoration objectives when multiple values and preferences exist here. Angela Guerrero is based at the Center of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) at the University of Queensland.