Human activities partially or totally degrade ecosystems, making them less diverse, less functional and more vulnerable to further change. For years, we have been quantifying the effects of disturbance on ecosystem diversity and function, but less has been known about the effects of disturbance on their recovery. One may think that thanks to the restoration of degraded ecosystems and to increasing ecological engineering and design (e.g., nature based solutions, green infrastructure), we can bring back lost biodiversity and functions, and even justify further degradation.
One of the most relevant questions in restoration ecology is to estimate the magnitude of anthropogenic disturbance, that is, what would it take for an ecosystem to fully recover? A common problem to respond to this question is to choose how to quantify disturbance or recovery. With present knowledge and technology it is still not possible to measure a whole ecosystem. However, several proxies that partially reflect the complexity of ecosystems have been used, and these include interaction networks. What is less clear is how the reassembly of interactions drives the functional recovery (and to some extent also viceversa). Studies are starting to show that the structure and stability of interaction networks strengthen as recovery proceeds. How and when a state of dynamic stability is reached, how it is affecting the resilience of the system to further disturbance and how it can be engineered or facilitated are some of our specific goals.