Euro-limpacs Deliverables

ABSTRACT - DELIVERABLE 35

Report on the operational landscape unit concept as a framework for catchment restoration

In landscapes around the world humans have fragmented and destroyed natural areas. For the conservation of nature it is now often necessary to restore the previously natural areas in the landscape. Nature restoration measures are, however, usually planned at small, local scales. In contrast to the size of restoration measures, conservation biology generally promotes restoration and protection of large areas. Our aim is to point out that restoration should not target small, local areas or indefinite large areas, but those landscape elements that together support the survival of the populations, species, ecosystems or ecosystem functions of interest. We propose to call a combination of these landscape elements and their hydrogeological and biotic connections an operational landscape unit (OLU). Restoration of OLUs has the following benefits: Connections between natural landscape elements are restored, thereby restoring flows of biota and water. This restores gene flow, (re−)colonisation potential, regional species dynamics, migration, gradients in biotic and abiotic conditions, and ecosystem functioning. The size and connectivity of the restored area in the OLU reduces the impact of the surrounding man−modified landscape on the area in the OLU. This diminishes or prevents continuing deterioration of the areas, saving labour and financial resources in the long term. It also increases the robustness of the areas under changing conditions. Connectivity between landscape elements and robustness of natural areas are important particularly in the light of climate change. OLUs are identified at the landscape scale. The scale of the OLU and the landscape elements required in it should be derived from ecological information on the population, species, ecosystem or ecosystem function to be conserved. Recent progress in spatial ecology, spatial modelling and GIS applications has made such information available, and will continue to do so. Progress has been made particularly in the fields of habitat connectivity and surface and ground water flows. GIS applications allow combination and visualisation of spatial information using, for example, multiple maps of OLUs

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