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From monitoring to evaluation in search of operational indicators in ecological restoration Du suivi a levaluation a la recherche dindicateurs operationnels en ecologie de la restauration

From monitoring to evaluation in search of operational indicators in ecological restoration Du suivi a levaluation a la recherche dindicateurs operationnels en ecologie de la restauration

Revue d'Ecologie la Terre et la Vie Supplement, 9: 201-224

Restoration - rehabilitation of degraded ecological systems projects respond to varied operational and scientific objectives. They involve scientific, technical and financial investment. It is essential to analyze them in order to assess the conditions that prevail to success or failures in respect to the targeted results. The design phase of the monitoring and evaluation methods is of prior importance for their validation and before promoting them. This step is worth to be taken very early into account while thinking about preliminary studies for the definition of goals. We need to compare the replacement systems with the reference systems in order to know if the objectives were achieved. This will allow readjusting, optimizing and perpetuating the results according to the observed evolution. For that purpose, reliable criteria or indicators (physical, chemical, biological, ecological, sociological, economic) have to be selected. The review of works dealing with evaluation of wetlands restoration projects shows that monitoring is too often neglected and does not receive enough conceptual, technical and financial support. This makes it impossible to have an effective evaluation of the results. On the other hand, when such monitoring measures were effectively implemented, they demonstrated the uncertainty linked to these operations. They also showed which benefit could be taken from ecosystem variability in order to favour their recovery capacity after a disturbance. Proposed methods for monitoring are numerous, more or less accurate and powerful. Most of them are based on characteristics that do not allow a functional evaluation, and some methods integrate socio-economic criteria. The analysis of five projects included in the National Research Program "Recreating nature" highlights how operational and scientific objectives can be gathered in three categories: recovery of natural habitats with high biodiversity, restoration of functional systems and development of pragmatic and reproducible techniques. Methods and indicators developed to evaluate the performance of these restoration projects are still very heterogeneous and not always adapted. One of the main lessons drawn from these experiments is that evaluation should be considered as a discipline in itself which progress will fully contribute to progress of restoration ecology. This should help formulating the implemented procedures and the results in a comprehensible form for scientists, administrators, developers and the public.

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