Age, experience, social goals, and engagement with research scientists may promote innovation in ecological restoration

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Innovation in ecological restoration is necessary to achieve the ambitious targets established in United Nations conventions and other global restoration initiatives. Innovation is also crucial for navigating uncertainties in repairing and restoring ecosystems, and thus practitioners often develop innovations at project design and implementation stages. However, innovation in ecological restoration can be hindered by many factors (e.g., time and budget constraints, and project complexity). Theory and research on innovation has been formally applied in many fields, yet explicit study of innovation in ecological restoration remains nascent. To assess the use of innovation in restoration projects, including its drivers and inhibitors, we conducted a social survey of restoration practitioners in the United States. Specifically, we assessed relationships between project-based innovation and traits of the individual practitioner (including, for example, age, gender, experience); company (including, for example, company size and company's inclusion of social goals); project (including, for example, complexity and uncertainty); and project outcomes (such as completing the project on time/on budget and personal satisfaction with the work). We found positive relationships between project-based innovation and practitioner traits (age, gender, experience, engagement with research scientists), one company trait (company's inclusion of social goals in their portfolio), and project traits (project complexity and length). In contrast, two practitioner traits, risk aversion and the use of industry-specific information, were negatively related to project-based innovation. Satisfaction with project outcomes was positively correlated with project-based innovation. Collectively, the results provide insights into the drivers and inhibitors of innovation in restoration and suggest opportunities for research and application.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0274153
Pages (from-to)e0274153
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • United States
  • Ecosystem
  • Goals
  • Uncertainty


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