The monitoring of nature and environmental restoration projects as the basis for effective conservation and performance of natural systems
This paper describes the conditions, concepts and demands of monitoring actions designed for the purpose of ecological restoration projects. Such a monitoring should provide necessary input and feedback for the purpose of adaptive project management, should document ecological results (which, however, usually will be evident much later after the project end), and should provide the scientifc evidence for conservation actions on similar objects elsewhere. It is argued, that the monitoring of restoration projects should be applied more to dynamic processes and functions, than to the biotic structures, as it usually is done in the standardised procedures of monitoring of ecological/conservation statuses. As each restoration action made in natural or seminatural ecosystems is unique at least to some extent, the essential primary monitoring effort is to construct an ecological model (conceptual, qualitative, or quantitative, depending on data availability and the specifc objectives of a project), considering the direct and indirect predicted effects of measures provided, and then to fnd the best available, rapid and cost-effcient indicators for checking eco-evolutionary trajectories of
targeted populations and ecosystems. Three monitoring phases are distinguished: initial (pre-investment, with feasibility evaluation of the proposed actions, building a functional model and indicator systems), during restoration actions (feedback, adaptation and minimizing unwanted side effects), and post restoration (the evidence of results and providing the background for post-project maintenance). Some important general concepts and methodologies for the design of a project monitoring are described, based mostly on the most recent literature sources. As most desirable ecological restoration objectives usually are described in structural terms (indicators of
good ecological/conservation status), there is a need to translate them into dynamic and functional objectives and processes. This should serve the most appropriate
monitoring design and evaluation of results before the improvement of structural parameters, expected in some future. Also, it is important to adequately relate the specifc functional project monitoring to standard biological monitoring programmes, integrated ecological monitoring, and scientifc research in the felds of general, conservation and restoration ecology.