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Principles of Regenerative Practice

Ecological regeneration is a considered practice in biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management. Regeneration can be large-scale or small scale, it can be carried out by one or a few individuals or via government programmes involving thousands of participants. It can be well resourced or modestly funded, it can involve ecosystems that can be regenerated quickly or those that will require hundreds of years before ecological regeneration can be said to have occurred. In all cases ecological regeneration will improve the biological diversity on degraded landscapes, increase the populations and distribution of rare and threatened species, enhance landscape connectivity, increase the availability of environmental goods and services, and contribute to the improvement of human well-being. Principles of good ecological regeneration practice include:

Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance
Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance Reference State

A reference ecosystem is an actual ecosystem or its conceptual model that is used in setting goals and planning a regeneration project, and later in its evaluation. In its simplest form the reference ecosystem is an actual site, its written or oral description, or both. In other situations, the reference ecosystem is assembled from multiple sites and from other sources. In parts of the world where there is a lack of an actual reference ecosystem, or in situations where it is unclear which ecosystem over time would serve as an adequate reference, a more conceptual approach is required. It should be noted that the concept of the reference is a dynamic one, and that, typically, the reference represents a point of advanced development that lies somewhere along the intended ecological trajectory of the regenerated ecosystem.


  • Incorporating biological and environmental spatial variation into the design.
  • Allowing for linkages within the larger landscape.
  • Emphasizing process repair over structural replacement.
  • Allowing sufficient time for self-generating processes to resume.
  • Treating the causes rather than the symptoms of degradation.
  • Include monitoring protocols to allow for adaptive management.

    Human systems

  • Ensuring all stakeholders are fully aware of the full range of possible alternatives, opportunities, costs and benefits offered by regeneration.
  • Empowering all stakeholders, especially disenfranchised resource users.
  • Engaging all relevant sectors of society and disciplines in planning, implementation and monitoring.
  • Involving relevant stakeholders in the definition of boundaries for regeneration.
  • Considering all forms of historical and current information, including scientific and indigenous and local knowledge, innovations and practices.
  • Providing short-term benefits leading to the acceptance of longer-term objectives.
  • Providing for the accrual of ecosystem goods and services.

    A ecosystem can be considered to have been regenerated when it regains sufficient biotic and abiotic resources to sustain its structure, ecological processes and functions with minimal external assistance or subsidy. It will then demonstrate resilience to normal ranges of environmental stress and disturbance. It will interact with contiguous ecosystems in terms of biotic and abiotic flows and social and economic interactions. It will support, as appropriate, local social and economic activities. Such a state is often difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, significant environmental and social benefits can be realized even in the earliest stages of regeneration. Regeneration can take time before all the benefits are evident.

    The attributes listed below provide a basis for assessing regeneration progress. Some are readily measured. Others must be assessed indirectly, including most ecosystem functions, through follow-up research. The full expression of all of these attributes is not essential to demonstrate that satisfactory progress is being achieved.

    Instead, it is only necessary for these indicators to demonstrate an appropriate trajectory towards the intended reference ecosystem condition.


  • The ecosystem contains a characteristic assemblage of the species that occurs in the reference ecosystem and that provide appropriate community structure.
  • The ecosystem contains indigenous species to the greatest practicable extent.
  • All functional groups necessary for the continued development and/or stability of the ecosystem are represented.
  • The physical environment of the ecosystem is capable of sustaining reproducing populations of the species necessary for its continued stability or development along the desired trajectory.
  • The ecosystem apparently functions normally for its ecological stage of development, and signs of dysfunction are absent.
  • The ecosystem is suitably integrated into a larger ecological matrix or landscape, with which it interacts through abiotic and biotic flows and exchanges.
  • Potential threats to the health and integrity of the ecosystem from the surrounding landscape have been eliminated or reduced as much as possible.
  • The ecosystem is sufficiently resilient to endure the normal periodic stress events in the local environment that are an integral part of the dynamics of the ecosystem.
  • The ecosystem is self-sustaining. It has the potential to persist indefinitely under existing environmental conditions. Aspects of its biodiversity, structure and functioning will change as part of normal ecosystem development, and may fluctuate in response to normal periodic stress and occasional disturbance events of greater consequence. As in any intact ecosystem, the species composition and other attributes of a restored ecosystem may evolve as environmental conditions change.

    Human systems

  • Balance exists between ecological processes and human activities such that human activities reinforce ecological health and vice versa.
  • The people who are dependent on the ecosystem have a key role in setting priorities and implementation.
  • Restoration activities are underpinned by economic mechanisms that equitably distribute the costs incurred and benefits arising at both a local and national level.
  • The ecosystem serves as natural capital for environmental goods and services. Indicators may be more specific according to the nature of the restoration goals. For example, one goal may be that the regenerated ecosystem will provide habitat for rare species or will harbor a diverse gene-pool for selected species. Yet other goals of restoration may be to provide aesthetic amenities or to accommodate activities of social consequence, such as the strengthening of a community through the participation of individuals in a regeneration project.

    Wherever possible, ecological regeneration attempts to return an ecosystem to its historic trajectory. Historic conditions are therefore the ideal starting point for regenerative design and planning. The regenerated ecosystem will not necessarily recover any of its specific former states, since contemporary constraints and conditions may render this impossible. Indeed, the historic trajectory of a severely impacted ecosystem may be difficult or impossible to determine with accuracy. Nevertheless, the general direction and boundaries of that trajectory can be established through a combination of knowledge of the damaged ecosystem's pre-existing structure, composition and functioning, studies on comparable intact ecosystems, information about regional environmental conditions, and analysis of other ecological, cultural and historical reference information. These combined sources allow the historic trajectory or other reference conditions to be charted from baseline ecological data and predictive models, and its emulation in the regenerative process should aid in piloting the ecosystem towards improved health and integrity.

  • Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance The
    Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance

    Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance is a group of progressive citizens, groups, companies, institutions, organizations and communities who want to put nature back into the centre of Okanagan life.

    The Alliance was formed to apply the principals of ecology to the wetlands of the Okanagan Basin, which are the source and heart of the future of human habitation and economy of this area, and which are in continuous need of study, understanding and regeneration.

    Please contact:
    Robert MacDonald, Director
    1473 Ethel Street
    Kelowna BC V1Y 2X9
    Telephone: 250.870.2690
    Email: click here

    The Partners in the Wetlands Alliance are
  • Okanagan Basin Water Board
  • District of Lake Country: James Baker, Mayor
  • Okanagan Greens: Angela Reid, President
  • Okanagan Institute: Robert MacDonald, Director
  • Okanagan College: Douglas MacLeod, Associate Dean, Science and Technology
  • Community Futures of the Central Okanagan: Larry Widmer, Director
  • Summerhill Organics and Wildcraft: Gabe Cipes, President
  • Okanagan Nation: Chad Eneas, En'owkin Centre
  • Okanagan Network for the Environment: Deb Thorneycroft, Coordinator
  • Aspire Media Works: Geoff Millar, President

    The Alliance welcomes participation from members of the public, as well as from companies, organizations and institutions of all kinds.
  • Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance
    Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance

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