Luong, J. C., D. M. Press, and K. D. Holl
Governmental and non-governmental organizations spend considerable funding on restoring ecosystems to counter biodiversity loss, yet outcomes are often not assessed at a regional scale. Monitoring is done ≤5 years after project-implementation, if at all, and rarely assesses the effects of management practices on project success. We combined vegetation surveys and management interviews to compare long-term restoration outcomes of 37 California coastal grassland projects (5–33 y post-implementation) that spanned a 1000-km north-south gradient. We found that coastal grassland restoration is largely successful at reaching project goals (95 %) and a standard performance metric (80 %) to restore native cover, but land managers preferentially use a small number of well tested, “high success” species, potentially at the expense of regional diversity. Medium and high maintenance intensity resulted in lower non-native cover and improved native cover and rarefied native richness. Managers of voluntary (non-statutory) sites were more open to assessing outcomes and spent less per hectare compared to legally mandated (statutory) projects but achieved similar plant cover and even higher rarefied richness. Statutory project managers indicated that regulatory agencies sometimes lowered compliance goals for native cover if the initial targets were not met. Additional funding for greater maintenance intensity and incorporating more locally distinctive species (i.e., endemic or range-restricted) may help counteract potential unintended consequences from preferential plant selection, and inter-agency coordination of species selection could reduce biotic homogenization. We recommend delegating funds to a third-party monitoring group to ensure legally mandated compliance and consistency in assessment.
Luong, J. C., D. M. Press, and K. D. Holl. 2023. Lessons learned from an interdisciplinary evaluation of long-term restoration outcomes on 37 restored coastal grasslands in California. Biological Conservation 280:109956.