Leveraging nature's backup plans to incorporate interspecific interactions and resilience into restoration

Clare E. Aslan, Judith L. Bronstein, Haldre S. Rogers, Keryn B. Gedan, Jedediah Brodie, Todd M. Palmer, Truman P. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Interspecific interactions are important structuring forces in ecological communities. Interactions can be disturbed when species are lost from a community. When interactions result in fitness gains for at least one participating organism, that organism may experience reduced fitness as a result of interaction disturbance. However, many species exhibit traits that enable individuals to persist and reproduce in spite of such disruptions, resulting in resilience to interaction disturbance. Such traits can result in interaction generalization, phenotypic and behavioral plasticity, and adaptive capacity. We discuss examples of these traits and use case studies to illustrate how restoration practitioners can use a trait-based approach to examine species of concern, identify traits that are associated with interspecific interactions and are relevant to resilience, and target such traits in restoration. Restoration activities that bolster interaction resilience could include, for example, reintroducing or supporting specific functional groups or managing abiotic conditions to reduce interaction dependence by at-risk species (e.g. providing structural complexity offering shelter and cover). Resilience may also be an important consideration in species selection for restoration. Establishment of resilient species, able to persist after interaction disturbance, may be essential to restoring to a functioning ecological community. Once such species are present, they could help support more specialized species that lack resilience traits, such as many species of concern. Understanding the conditions under which processes linked to resilience may enable species to persist and communities to reform following interaction disturbance is a key application of community ecology to ecological restoration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-440
Number of pages7
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • generality
  • interaction disturbance
  • mutualism
  • plasticity
  • traits


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