Prescribing Innovation within a Large-Scale Restoration Programme in Degraded Subtropical Thicket in South Africa
Published: 24 November 2015
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Commonly cited requirements for bridging the “science‑practice divide” between practitioners and scientists include: political support, communication and experimentation. The Subtropical Thicket Restoration Programme was established in 2004 to catalyse investment in large-scale restoration of degraded subtropical thicket in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Political support has been strong, with the South African government investing more than US$8 million into the programme. Communication occurred regularly among a wide range of stakeholders, and a restoration experiment—comprising 12 treatments and ~300 plots—was established over an area of ~75,000 km². Despite this support, communication and experimentation, many pitfalls were encountered. For example, one restoration protocol became entrenched in the programme’s public as well as private sector operations without continual scrutiny of its efficacy. This was largely because results from the large-scale restoration experiment only emerged a decade after its conceptualization. As the programme enters its second decade there is recognition that a full range of “intelligent tinkering”—from small, rapid experiments to large, long-term experiments—needs to be planned and prescribed. The new working hypothesis is that prescribed innovation will reduce costs of restoration, increase survivorship of plants, increase income streams from restored landscapes, and promote new financing mechanisms for restoration.