Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 77–98 | Cite as

Historicity and ecological restoration

  • Eric Desjardins


This paper analyzes the relevance and interconnection of two forms of historicity in ecological restoration, namely historical fidelity and path dependence. Historical fidelity is the practice of attempting to restore an ecological system to some sort of idealized past condition. Path dependence occurs when a system can evolve in alternative local equilibria, and that the order and timing of the events that follow from the initial state influence which equilibrium is reached. Using theoretical examples and case studies, the following analysis shows that path dependence can seriously impinge the feasibility of historical fidelity, thus reinforcing the idea that restoration ecology needs to move away from a rigid reliance on historical fidelity and is sometimes justified to endorse an interventionist agenda. Yet, contra recent criticisms, I argue that ecological restoration, directed by prudential and evidence-based reasoning, should maintain historical fidelity as one of its guiding objectives.


Historicity Path dependence Historical fidelity Restoration Ecology Adaptive management 



I would like to thank John Beatty, Gillian Barker, Marc Ereshefsky, Ken Waters, Adrian Currie, Athony Belardo, the members of BiPED, and the reviewers from Biology and Philosophy for their comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Rotman Institute of PhilosophyThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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