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Letter from SER Executive Director Bethanie Walder

Volume 31 Issue 3 | October 2017
Innovations in Monitoring


Dear SER Members,

As we enter October, super-hurricanes, massive wildfires, and questions about climate change are dominating the headlines here in the United States and abroad. These events resonate personally with me as a native of Florida, which is dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma (along with the many islands more severely impacted), and as a long-time resident of Montana, which experienced one of the worst wildfire seasons in recent memory. In addition, in mid-June I visited Puerto Rico to discuss forest restoration with foresters from around the world. We spent a full day in the El Junque National Forest, with time spent discussing long-term experiments to understand the natural role of hurricane-driven disturbance on that island’s forests. The news from Puerto Rico and other islands post-Maria is profoundly dire, and SER’s thoughts and concerns go out to everyone impacted. 

We know that many of our chapters and members will be engaging in post-storm and post-fire restoration efforts. And we hope the articles below provide some interesting food for thought as you embark on not just the restoration efforts themselves, but the associated monitoring programs.

This issue of SERNews is focused on innovative approaches to monitoring in restoration. While there is no way to capture the vast array of monitoring innovations that are constantly being developed, we aim to present a taste of the diverse frontiers at which innovations are being made. Whether it is technological advances, new methodological approaches, or the inclusion of new types of monitoring data, the three innovations covered in this issue will, along with countless others, play a role in making monitoring an integral and effective component to more and more restoration projects. We look forward to hearing back from you about other, innovative approaches you have taken that we can share with other SER members.

As we hear regularly from our members, monitoring is incredibly important to understanding and advancing restoration successes, but it is rarely fully funded and when budgets are tight, it is often the first thing to be dropped. The first article in this issue attempts to address this challenge of cost-effectiveness by looking at the potential of drone technology for restoration monitoring. Rakan Zahawi’s research in Costa Rica explores the effectiveness of drones in monitoring tropical forest restoration. The second article, by Tom Kaye from the Institute for Applied Ecology, offers a tiered approach for monitoring rare plant species – nested intensity monitoring. Similar to Zahawi, Kaye’s article focuses on achieving high quality results at lower cost. And the final article in this issue of SERNews addresses a topic that is increasingly important in the restoration arena – monitoring the social benefits and impacts of restoration projects. Scott Hemmerling and Monica Barra, from the Water Institute of the Gulf, outline the importance of social impact assessments, the infrequency with which such assessments are implemented, and an approach to collecting this important data in conjunction with restoration projects.

Speaking of monitoring, we are just about to send out our post-SER2017 letter and online evaluation form to all conference delegates – we’d greatly appreciate your responses. But our anecdotal and on-site monitoring results are already in: SER2017 in Iguassu, Brazil was a resounding success! We hope all conference delegates found it as rewarding an experience as we did. You can read more about the conference in the Society News section of this issue, or on the SER2017 page on our website featuring all sorts of conference news, including links to videos of all plenary talks. The plenaries, oral and poster presentations, field trips, workshops, cultural events, food, and yes, caipirinhas, left delegates inspired and connected to improve their restoration work across the globe. Together with our partners at SOBRE and SIACRE, we closed the conference by releasing a Call to Action urging a stop to ecological degradation as well as increased investment in restoration. Huge thanks and kudos to the local organizing committee and to Conference Chair Vera Lex Engel for their incredible dedication and effort putting this together. For those who missed it, keep an eye out for more details and information from the conference still to come. And as we close out this conference, we are already in the early stages of planning for SER2019. Dates and details coming soon, but we hope to see as many of you as possible at SER2019 in Cape Town, South Africa! 

All the best,

Bethanie Walder

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