Keynote addresses

Keynote Addresses

Tuesday, March 12

Leaping into the Decade of Restoration

Dr. Kingsley Dixon
Dr. Kingsley Dixon

John Curtin Distinguished Professor
Curtin University, Western Australia
Kingsley.dixon at

Keynote Address Abstract

As we move into the UN decade of restoration the demands grow for seed-based solutions that provide timely, effective and scalable opportunities. Technology developments, though developed in the US to a large degree yet poorly in the remainder of the world, represent one of the key impediments to delivering ‘on-demand’ restoration. Estimates of seed wastage in direct seeding programs from major restoration centres such as Australia and China, indicate that we still retrieve seed-to-plant conversions of just 10% or less. For biodiverse restoration this figure can be substantially less due to seed dormancy, low viability and inability to create the appropriate establishment niche following seeding. Developing an effective restoration toolkit that is built on sound science with a clear focus on practitioner application remains elusive for many restoration programs. I will outline global success stories in developing effective seed-based restoration and, importantly, how the soon to be published International Standards for Native Seeds in Restoration represents a key milestone for ensuring good seed delivers great restoration.

About Kingsley Dixon

Dr. Dixon is a botanist and biologists with 40 years research experience in threatened species conservation and restoration science on the landscapes of Australia. He is an active communicator and community scientist with links to community restoration programs in urban to remote regional communities. He is co-author of the Australian Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration and the International Standards. He has authored more than 400 research papers, 14 books including major works in conservation biology. 2014 Linnean Medal in Botany 2016; Scientist of the Year (Western Australia); 2018 John Curtin Distinguished Professor.

Wednesday, March 13

Historical reference conditions, species pools, and functional traits: the future of western mixed conifer forests

Dr. Daniel Laughlin

Department of Botany
University of Wyoming

Keynote Address Abstract

Restoration ecologists have an innate desire to restore what has been lost. Our first instinct is to use historical reference conditions as empirical benchmarks for restoration success. However, historical reference conditions in many regions are undefinable and are increasingly viewed as irrelevant under climate change. The important question to ask is why were species dominant historically? The answer, presumably, is because they exhibited traits that conferred high fitness in those environments. As the environment changes, optimal traits may shift, making historical trait distributions less fit and ill-suited for the task. If this is the case, then we may need a new framework for setting targets to meet desired functional outcomes in ecological restoration in a rapidly changing world. In this talk I will compare and contrast the use of historical reference conditions with those based on functional traits in a fire-adapted mixed conifer forest on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. This forest has increased in tree density since the age of fire suppression, which makes it more susceptible to stand-replacing crown fire. I will show how management actions designed to restore historical conditions work remarkably well to enhance forest resilience, but will also discuss alternative options that might lead to success in a hotter, drier climate.

About Daniel Laughlin

Dr. Laughlin is an Associate Professor of Plant Ecology in the Botany Department at the University of Wyoming. Before recently moving back to the USA, he spent 6 years as a professor at the University in Waikato in New Zealand, where he continues to collaborate on restoration projects. Daniel’s research group ( integrates ecophysiology and community ecology to predict population dynamics and restore wild landscapes. He develops predictive models of community assembly that integrate trait-based environmental filtering and species interactions, and is currently interested in identifying functional traits that predict plant population dynamics and fitness. He has been actively involved in studying the restoration of prairies, wetlands, shrublands, montane forests, and temperate rainforests around the world, and is currently developing quantitative frameworks for generating trait-based assemblages to meet functional objectives in restoration. Daniel has served as an Associate Editor for the journal Ecologyand Ecological Monographssince 2012.  He currently lives in Laramie, Wyoming, on the front range of the Rocky Mountains where he spends all his free time wandering through prairies, forests, and alpine meadows identifying a bewildering variety of forbs and grasses and collecting their seeds for propagation.

Thursday, March 14

Fire, Climate Change and Adapting Restoration Ecology to a Changing World

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Dr. Don Falk

School of Natural Resources and the Environment
University of Arizona
dafalk at

Keynote Address Abstract

Species have a variety of mechanisms for adapting to climatic variation over a range of time scales, but the current pace of climate change may exceed the adaptive capability of many species as currently distributed. Ecological disturbances, such as wildfires and insect outbreaks, operate at time scales many times faster than even the accelerated climate velocity of the current century. Disturbances are transient processes that can trigger significant and irreversible environmental, demographic and ecosystem change. These interactions of climate change and elevated levels of disturbance constitute the greatest challenge for restoration of terrestrial ecosystems now and many decades into the future. A consensus is emerging within the restoration field that a focus on ecological resilience, rather than strict interpretation of historical reference conditions, may best enhance the adaptive capacity of many ecosystems. Departures from historical references should be undertaken cautiously and incrementally, respecting the importance of ecological legacies, refugia, species interactions, and unexpressed genetic variation. We can decompose ecological responses to disturbance across a spectrum from persistence and recovery to system reorganization, and introduce a theorem of resilience relevant to the formidable challenges in a rapidly changing world.

About Don Falk

Dr. Falk is Professor in the University of Arizona School of Natural Resources and the Environment, with joint appointments in the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research and the Institute of the Environment. He holds degrees from Oberlin College, Tufts University, and the University of Arizona, where he received his PhD in 2004. 

Don’s research focuses on fire history, fire ecology, and the adaptation of restoration ecology to resilience in a changing world. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and has received a Fulbright Short-Term Scholar award, the Ecological Society of America’s Deevey Award, and the Udall Faculty Fellowship in Public Policy. Don was co-founder and Executive Director of the Center for Plant Conservation, originally at Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and now at San Diego Zoo Global; he subsequently served as the first Executive Director of the Society for Ecological Restoration. His books include Genetics and Conservation of Rare Plants, Foundations of Restoration Ecology (now in Second Edition) and The Landscape Ecology of Fire. Don was a delegate to the 2015 UN climate summit in Paris.

Dr. Falk was co-founder and Executive Director of the Center for Plant Conservation at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and Missouri Botanical Garden, now at San Diego Zoo Global. He served subsequently as the first Executive Director of the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER), of which he was a founding Board member. 

Falk is the author of more than more than 100 publications and has co-edited five books, including Genetics and Conservation of Rare Plants (1991, Oxford University Press, with Kent Holsinger,), Restoring Diversity: Strategies for Reintroduction of Endangered Plants (1996, Island Press, with Connie Millar and Peggy Olwell), Foundations of Restoration Ecology (2006, Island Press, with Margaret Palmer and Joy Zedler; Second Edition 2016), and The Landscape Ecology of Fire (2011, Springer, with Don McKenzie and Carol Miller). He is a member of the Editorial Board for the SER-Island Press series, Science and Practice of Restoration Ecology, the Executive Board of the Southwest Fire Science Consortium, and is science lead for the FireScape initiative in the Arizona Sky Islands. He serves as Chair of the Global Change Ecology and Management degree option in the UA School of Natural Resources and the Environment. 

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