Using ecosystem engineers to enhance multiple ecosystem processes
- Ecosystem engineers (EEs) strongly influence ecosystems by affecting the abiotic properties of a system to which many biota respond. EEs can thus be pivotal species in restoration by helping to move systems toward desired states much faster and more efficiently than direct human intervention on the abiotic state.
- For EEs to play a central, purposeful role in restoration, it is important to identify guiding principles about how the EEs may best be selected and incorporated.
- I discuss three important aspects to determine 1) where the utility for EEs is high; 2) where EEs can most easily establish, are easy to handle, and scaling-up their use is possible; and 3) how to recognize and value multiple, coupled, and trait-dependent engineering functions of EEs.
- Understanding these aspects of EEs should help guide purposeful and efficient choices in our approach to restoration.