Key words: planted forests, sustainability, site rehabilitation, forest restoration
Abstract. Although the phrase, "planting for ecosystem restoration," is of recent origin, many of the earliest large-scale tree plantings were made for what we now refer to as "restoration" or "conservation" goals. Forest restoration activities may be needed when ecosystems are disturbed by either natural or anthropogenic forces. Disturbances can impact (1) basic components of the system (e.g., plant and animal composition, soil pools, and atmospheric pools), (2) ecosystem processes, i.e., interactions among basic components, or (3) both components and processes. Early efforts at restoration or site rehabilitation focused primarily on reducing off-site impacts, such as sediment introduced into streams from ecosystems that had been severely disturbed. More recent restoration programs include ecosystems in which only some of the components are missing or some of the processes have been impacted. Restoration activities can begin immediately after the disturbance has ended. Although forest restoration projects can include many activities, planting is almost always a key component. When planning an ecosystem restoration project, land managers need to be aware that commonly used plant establishment and management procedures may need to be altered to meet project objectives. Some systems may have been so severely impacted that ameliorative activities, e.g., fertilization, liming, land contouring, and microsite preparation, will be necessary prior to planting. Managers may also need to take special measures to reduce herbivory, control competing vegetation, or reduce physical damage from wind or sun. Choice of species needs careful consideration. Desired species may not grow well on degraded sites, may need a nurse species to become established, or may not provide an opportunity to harvest a short-term crop to reduce restoration costs. New methods may need to be developed for projects that require underplanting or interplanting. The end result of restoration should be an ecosystem with the same level of heterogeneity inherent in an undisturbed system; thus, managers should consider how pre- and postplanting activities will affect system variability. As our understanding of ecosystems has increased, so has our expectation that restored ecosystems have the same components and function in the same manner as do undisturbed systems. These expectations require that land managers have more sophisticated information than was considered necessary previously. In the absence of more pertinent information, we can prescribe restoration activities based on results from related ecosystems or on theoretical considerations. Additional research, careful monitoring, and adaptive management are critical to our long-term success.