Perceptions and reality in ecological restoration and use of seasonal weather forecasting

The need to restore the world’s ecosystems and landscapes to protect biodiversity and vital ecosystem services has resulted in significant international commitments over the last decade, and governments and non-government organisations are now looking at ways to scale up restoration efforts.

Capture_Hagger et al_restoration paper

Restoring native vegetation has a wide variety of outcomes from successes to failures and there are diverse opinions on the factors that influence this. But not much is known about how these factors are perceived, and whether perceptions match realities.

Valerie Hagger and her team surveyed 307 people who are involved in restoring native vegetation across Australia to find out what their perceptions were about the factors that influence a successful restoration project.

They found discrepancies between perceived risks to restoration projects in general and realised risks from specific case studies after implementation. People did not perceive local climate and natural events as important risks, but they recognised them as major reasons limiting the success of specific case studies. They also cited local climate as the main cause of failure of restoration projects. This highlights the need for better recognition and management of weather risks in planning new restoration projects, and the potential role of seasonal forecasting.

Using restoration case studies, researchers assessed the ability of seasonal forecasting from the Predictive Ocean Atmosphere Model for Australia (POAMA-2) to detect unfavourable weather with sufficient skill and lead time to be useful for restoration projects. They found that rainfall and temperature variables in POAMA-2 predicted 88% of the weather issues encountered in restoration case studies, apart from strong winds and cyclones. Of those restoration case studies with predictable weather issues, POAMA-2 had the forecast skill to predict the dominant or first-encountered issue in 67% of cases.

Through consultation with restoration practitioners, researchers explored the challenges associated with the uptake of forecast products to develop a prototype forecast product. The establishment success of restoration could be improved by integrating seasonal forecasting into decision making through identifying risk management strategies during restoration planning, accessing the forecast a month prior to revegetation activities, and adapting decisions if extreme weather is forecasted.

Seasonal forecasting has potential to reduce uncertainty in decision making and improve the success and cost-efficiency of restoration projects. It could also be useful for other conservation actions that rely on weather for successful implementation.

Read the study here: