On principles and standards in ecological restoration

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Eric Higgs
  • Jim Harris
  • Steve Murphy
  • Keith Bowers
  • Richard Hobbs
  • Willis Jenkins
  • Nik Lopoukhine
  • Bethany Sollereder
  • Katie Suding
  • Allen Thompson
  • Steve Whisenant

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Victoria
  • Cranfield University
  • University of Waterloo
  • Biohabitats, Inc.; Charleston SC USA
  • University of Western Australia, Plant Biology; Perth WA AUS
  • University of Virginia, Dep. Phys. , Charlottesville, VA 22904 USA
  • Ottawa, CAN
  • University of Oxford
  • Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
  • Oregon State University, School of History, Philosophy & Religion; Corvallis USA
  • Texas A&M University, Ecosystem Science and Management, College Station; TX USA


The Society for Ecological Restoration has long debated how to define best practices. We argue that a principles-first offers more flexibility for restoration practitioners than a standards-based approach, is consistent with the developmental stage of restoration, and functions more effectively at a global level. However, the solution is not as simple as arguing that one approach to professional practice is sufficient. Principles and standards can and do operate effectively together, but only if they are coordinated in a transparent and systematic way. Effective professional guidance results when standards anchored by principles function in a way that is contextual and evolving. Without that clear relation to principles, the tendency to promote performance standards may lead to a narrowing of restoration practice and the potential to resolve very difficult and diverse ecological and environmental challenges. We offer recommendations on how the evolving project of restoration policy by SER and other agencies and organizations can remain open and flexible.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-403
Number of pages5
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number3
Early online date13 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • codes of ethics, principles, professional practice, scope of restoration, standards