A field in the science of conservation that is concerned with the application of ecological principles to restoring degraded, derelict, or fragmented ecosystems. The primary goal of restoration ecology (also known as ecological restoration) is to return a community or ecosystem to a condition similar in ecological structure, function, or both, to that existing prior to site disturbance or degradation.
A reference framework is needed to guide any restoration attempt—that is, to form the basis of the design (for example, desired species composition and density) and monitoring plan (for example, setting milestones and success criteria for restoration projects). Such a reference system is derived from ecological data collected from a suite of similar ecosystems in similar geomorphic settings within an appropriate biogeographic region. Typically, many sites representing a range of conditions (for example, pristine to highly degraded) are sampled, and statistical analyses of these data reveal what is possible given the initial conditions at the restoration site. See also Ecology, applied.