Interdisciplinary historical vegetation mapping for ecological restoration in Galapagos
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- Trueman, M., Hobbs, R.J. & Van Niel, K. Landscape Ecol (2013) 28: 519. doi:10.1007/s10980-013-9854-4
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Improving our knowledge of pre-anthropogenic landscapes is vital for understanding landscape-scale heterogeneity and for setting goals and objectives for ecological restoration. This is especially important in highly modified landscapes that contain few remnants of pre-impact ecosystems. This study aims to develop new methodology to improve understanding of historical vegetation, using the now-degraded inhabited highlands of the Galapagos Islands as a case study. Our multidisciplinary approach innovatively combines data from interviews with residents who were familiar with the vegetation before most degradation occurred with the more traditional sources of historical aerial photography and information from early explorer and scientist reports. We reconstruct historical vegetation across the landscape by mapping it in the year 1960 and discussing this map in the historical context of anthropogenic change. Our results confirm published vegetation types but also define some other types not previously described, and suggest much greater spatial, temporal and structural heterogeneity than commonly understood. This result can be used by Galapagos land managers to better match species assemblages with sites and plan restoration actions that will maximise resilience against the ongoing and future threats of climate change and species invasions. Our methodology can be applied in extensive areas of the world where the majority of anthropogenic disturbance to natural ecosystems has been within the past 60 years.