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Paul H. Gobster

What does ecological restoration mean in an urban context? More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and in response to the dynamic patterns of urbanization, a growing number of ecologists, land managers, and volunteers are focusing their efforts in and around cities to restore remnants of natural diversity (Ingram 2008). Ecological restoration is still a quite youthful field, yet many scientists and practitioners hold a relatively fixed set of criteria for what defines a successful restoration project, irrespective of where sites are located. Among the criteria commonly stated, sites should be composed of indigenous species, have a structure and diversity characteristic of currently undisturbed or historically documented “reference” sites, and be maintained through ecological processes such as fire that ensure long-term sustainability with minimal human assistance (Ruiz-Jaén and Aide 2005; SER International 2004). Application of these criteria has led to many ecologically successful restorations, but some ecologists in the field have begun to question whether the same standards can be realistically applied to sites such as those within urban areas that have been radically altered by past human activity (e.g., Martínez and López-Barerra 2008) or are being influenced by novel conditions that result in unpredictable trajectories (Choi 2007). Perhaps more significantly, it is becoming increasingly recognized that the broader viability of restoration projects, especially those in urban areas, hinges on how socially successful they are in gaining public acceptance for restoration activities and practices, building constituencies to assist with implementation and maintenance, and addressing a broader set of sustainability goals that reach beyond the protection of native biodiversity (e.g., Choi et al. 2008; Hobbs 2007; Rosenzweig 2003).

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Paul H. Gobster

Ecological restoration is becoming an increasingly popular means of managing urban natural areas for human and environmental values. But although urban ecological restorations can foster unique, positive relationships between people and nature, the scope of these interactions is often restricted to particular activities and experiences, especially in city park settings. Drawing on personal experiences and research on urban park restorations in Chicago and San Francisco, I explore the phenomenon of this "museumification" in terms of its revision of landscape and land use history, how it presents nature through restoration design and implementation, and its potential impacts on the nature experiences of park users, particularly children. I conclude that although museum-type restorations might be necessary in some cases, alternative models for the management of urban natural areas may provide a better balance between goals of achieving authenticity in ecological restorations and authenticity of nature experiences.

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Anna Jorgensen and Paul H. Gobster

In this paper we review and analyze the recent research literature on urban green space and human health and well-being, with an emphasis on studies that attempt to measure biodiversity and other green space concepts relevant to urban ecological restoration. We first conduct a broad scale assessment of the literature to identify typologies of urban green space and human health and well-being measures, and use a research mapping exercise to detect research priorities and gaps. We then provide a more in-depth assessment of selected studies that use diverse and innovative approaches to measuring the more ecological aspects of urban green space and we evaluate the utility of these approaches in developing urban restoration principles and practices that are responsive to both human and ecological values.