The relationship between restoration theory and practice is best described in SER International’s Primer on Ecological Restoration:

“Ecological restoration is the practice of restoring ecosystems as performed by practitioners at specific project sites, whereas restoration ecology is the science upon which the practice is based. Restoration ecology ideally provides clear concepts, models, methodologies and tools for practitioners in support of their practice. Sometimes the practitioner and the restoration ecologist are the same person—the nexus of practice and theory. The field of restoration ecology is not limited to the direct service of restoration practice. Restoration ecologists can often advance ecological theory by using restoration project sites as experimental areas.”
Cairns and Heckman in their seminal 1996 article “Restoration Ecology: The State of an Emerging Field” make the following observations:

“The field of restoration ecology represents an emerging synthesis of ecological theory and concern about human impact on the natural world. Restoration ecology can be viewed as the study of how to repair anthropogenic damage to the integrity of ecological systems. However, attempts to repair ecological damage should not diminish protection of existing healthy ecosystems. Restoration ecology allows for the testing of ecological theories; however, restoration ecology is not limited to, nor is it a subdiscipline of, the field of ecology. Restoration ecology requires approaches that integrate ecology and environmental sciences, economics, sociology, and politics.”

Glacier National Park in British Columbia, Canada

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The CP Rail Roger`s Pass Project created a new rail line through the heart of Glacier National Park. Restoration was a major part of the impact mitigation plan developed for the project. Restoration work entailed the establishment of a suitable growth media (soil), a cover of seeded grasses and legumes to control erosion and the planting of woody species. Sitka alder was used as an initial woody species cover with later successional conifers planted underneath. These are now starting to overtop the alder and form the dominant cover. (Photos courtesy of Polster Environmental Services)

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