- Creating and Restoring Wetlands: From Theory to Practice by Christopher Craft
At last! A book has been published that brings the ecological theory relevant to restoration of all major wetland types together with the practical, nuts-and-bolts aspects of planning and construction that are key to successful wetland restoration projects. I have taught a course on wetland restoration annually for almost a decade and have found it particularly challenging because there have been no books available that brought together both the theoretical, academic, research-based side with the practical planning, design, construction, and monitoring side. Thus, I would rely on a patchwork of theory-rich book chapters or journal articles written by academics, sections from design or construction manuals, reports written by practitioners or landscape architects, general restoration ecology or ecosystem restoration books, policy-based books, and wetland-type-specific books (see recommended readings below). This patchwork had the benefit of presenting a multitude of perspectives, but inevitably led to repetition of some concepts and lack of depth in others. No longer! Christopher Craft has distilled theoretical and practical knowledge from all major works relating to the creation and restoration of wetlands into a readable, standalone text that is equally valuable for teaching courses on wetland restoration as it is for science-based planning, building, and monitoring wetland restoration projects.
The book is logically organized in a way that proceeds from fundamental wetland science, through current theory and practice, and ends with issues relating to the future of wetland restoration. There are four parts: “Foundations,” “Restoration of Freshwater Wetlands,” “Restoration of Estuarine Wetlands,” and “From Theory to Practice.” Thirteen chapters of 20–35 pages each are distributed across the four parts, meaning that a majority of the book could be assigned and read during a semester-long course or read in entirety in a weekend or two. For those needing to find specific information quickly, each chapter has its own detailed table of contents. References are included at the end of each chapter, making it easy to find literature for each chapter topic. Creating and Restoring Wetlands is particularly well grounded in the scientific literature, including both classic and recent articles and books. The text is generally free of jargon, less formulaic, and more conversational than the writing often found in journal articles, making the book accessible to a wider audience than it might otherwise be.
The first part of the book, “Foundations,” provides the underlying scientific and practical knowledge needed to engage in wetland restoration. This includes: variables controlling wetland ecosystem structure and function, regulations pertaining to wetland definition and restoration, ecological theories applicable to restoration, and the restoration process in general. Although the book is strong on all of these topics, it excels in two areas in particular in this section—ecological theory and landscape placement of restored wetlands. Other works have discussed the many ecological theories that can pertain to restoration projects (in general and specific to wetlands), but Craft takes the clarifying step of distinguishing the theoretical concepts most directly related to restoration ecology (disturbance and succession theories) from the myriad other models that undoubtedly have relevance in some contexts but are less fundamental to understanding the ecological dynamics of restored ecosystems. Wetland restoration projects can be considered catastrophic disturbances of soil, vegetation, and hydrology, comparable to hurricanes, landslides, and floods. As such, much insight can be gleaned from the rich literature on disturbance ecology, dispersal, and colonization (including invasive plants and animals), and community and ecosystem development in naturally occurring ecosystems. Turning to the landscape perspective, it has long been recognized that the position of wetlands in the watershed influences their functions (e.g., water quality improvement and flood peak moderation), and that watershed characteristics (e.g., urbanization, agriculture) in turn affect the structure and function of wetland ecosystems. However, Craft’s chapter on landscape considerations for wetland restoration is a milestone in moving ahead the critical, but often neglected, science and practice of identifying landscape stressors and prioritizing wetland restoration in the...