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Improving Ecological Restoration to Curb Biotic Invasion—A Practical Guide

  • Qinfeng Guo (a1), Dale G. Brockway (a2), Diane L. Larson (a3), Deli Wang (a4) and Hai Ren (a5)...


Common practices for invasive species control and management include physical, chemical, and biological approaches. The first two approaches have clear limitations and may lead to unintended (negative) consequences, unless carefully planned and implemented. For example, physical removal rarely completely eradicates the targeted invasive species and can cause disturbances that facilitate new invasions by nonnative species from nearby habitats. Chemical treatments can harm native, and especially rare, species through unanticipated side effects. Biological methods may be classified as biocontrol and the ecological approach. Similar to physical and chemical methods, biocontrol also has limitations and sometimes leads to unintended consequences. Therefore, a relatively safer and more practical choice may be the ecological approach, which has two major components: (1) restoration of native species and (2) biomass manipulation of the restored community, such as selective grazing or prescribed burning (to achieve and maintain viable population sizes). Restoration requires well-planned and implemented planting designs that consider alpha-, beta-, and gamma-diversity and the abundance of native and invasive component species at local, landscape, and regional levels. Given the extensive destruction or degradation of natural habitats around the world, restoration could be most effective for enhancing ecosystem resilience and resistance to biotic invasions. At the same time, ecosystems in human-dominated landscapes, especially those newly restored, require close monitoring and careful intervention (e.g., through biomass manipulation), especially when successional trajectories are not moving as intended. Biomass management frequently uses prescribed burning, grazing, harvesting, and thinning to maintain overall ecosystem health and sustainability. Thus, the resulting optimal, balanced, and relatively stable ecological conditions could more effectively limit the spread and establishment of invasive species. Here we review the literature (especially within the last decade) on ecological approaches that involve biodiversity, biomass, and productivity, three key community/ecosystem variables that reciprocally influence one another. We focus on the common and most feasible ecological practices that can aid in resisting new invasions and/or suppressing the dominance of existing invasive species. We contend that, because of the strong influences from neighboring areas (i.e., as exotic species pools), local restoration and management efforts in the future need to consider the regional context and projected climate changes.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Qinfeng Guo, USDA Forest Service, Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, 3041 Cornwallis Road, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709. (Email:


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