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Dybala KE, Dettling MD, Gardali T, Grossman JD, Kelsey R, Seavy NE.2017. Advancing ecological restoration through experimental design on spatial and temporal scales relevant to wildlife. PeerJ Preprints5:e3365v1https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.3365v1
Experimenting with new and unconventional restoration methods and designs is critical to advancing the field of ecological restoration. Conventional methods cannot be considered reliable in a future with climate change-induced shifts in weather conditions, species distributions, and ecosystem processes. It is crucial that researchers and practitioners collaborate to identify the most effective restoration methods, yet there remains a disturbing lack of restoration experiments at the spatial or temporal scales relevant for evaluating wildlife responses. We suspect that willingness to attempt such experiments is hampered by the perceived difficulty of conducting these experiments combined with a fear of failure. However, we argue that failure to experiment with new methods guarantees learning nothing new. Here, we address many of the major challenges of designing an experiment to evaluate wildlife responses to restoration, including (1) distinguishing between the goals and objectives of the restoration project and the key uncertainties the experiment will address, (2) designing the experiment itself, including optimizing plot size and replication, and (3) determining how and when the results will be evaluated. We then illustrate how we designed an experiment to evaluate riparian bird responses to restoration along the lower Cosumnes River in the Central Valley of California, USA. Researchers and practitioners working together from the start of the objectives-setting process, through experimental design, implementation, and evaluation can proactively address the challenges of conducting a restoration experiment and maximize the chances of successfully identifying effective restoration methods, adding to the practitioners’ toolbox, and accelerating the rate of successful habitat restoration.