Biodiversity, Ecosystem and Environmental Restoration

The Biodiversity, Ecosystem, and Environmental Restoration focuses on the main drivers of biodiversity loss and the underlying causes of ecosystem damage (habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, overexploitation and climate change) as well as their consequences (changes in demography, habitat use and nutritional/physiological health) and uses them as a lens through which to study how coupled human and natural systems respond to restoration efforts.

Broad Research Topics

  • Underlying geographic patterns
  • Geologic substrates
  • Responses by individuals, populations and communities of organisms from microbes to top carnivores
  • Social constructs/human conceptions of restoration
  • Environmental economic principles to justify or prioritize management actions
  • Policy implications of current practice/laws and what might be needed to meet future restoration targets
  • Ethical considerations

NIU Faculty

  • Philip Carpenter (sinkholes) GEOL
  • Holly Jones (mammals) BIOS/ESE
  • Michael Konen (soil) GEOG
  • Richard King (reptiles) BIOS
  • Melissa Lenczewski (water quality) GEOL/ESE
  • Wesley Swingley (soil microbiota) BIOS
  • Mitch Irwin (ANTH)

Prairie grasslands are one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. There are many ongoing restoration efforts in the Midwest Region. One of the most extensive and successful restoration projects is at Nachusa Grasslands. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has been restoring prairie ecosystems from farmland since the 1980's and they have different blocks of prairie that are in different stages and ages of recovery. Moreover, they reintroduced bison at Nachusa in 2014. Restoring bison provides a unique opportunity to study ecosystem response to the restoration of this important driver and is hypothesized to restore the key ecological functions and relationships that existed in tallgrass prairies historically and. NIU researchers and ESE Associates Nick Barber, Holly Jones, Wes Swingley, and Rich King and their students are monitoring flora, fauna, and ecosystem response to bison reintroduction and prairie restoration.

Specific Projects Include

  • REstoring FUnction in Grassland Ecosystems (ReFuGE)
  • Grassland bird response to bison and prairie vegetation restoration
  • Using unmanned aerial vehicles and isotopes to quantify reintroduced bison diet and impacts in restored prairies
  • Studying trophic cascade and predator-prey interactions through predator exclosure fences
  • The effects of invasive plant removal on small mammals and their resource bases

Media Coverage


  • National Science Foundation
  • Friends of Nachusa Grasslands
  • Audubon
  • Parrot
  • Pix4D

Relevant Publications

Barber, N. A., H. P. Jones, M. R. Duvall, W. P Wysocki*, M. J.Hansen, and D. J. Gibson (2017). Phylogenetic diversity is maintained despite richness losses over time in restored tallgrass prairie plant communities. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54(1), 137-144.

Invasive vertebrates have been devastating to island ecosystems and island-breeding species. The majority of the world’s extinctions have occurred on islands and were caused by invasive vertebrates. Invasive vertebrates have now been eradicated from over 700 islands globally with the goal of restoring island ecosystems. However, relatively little research has been conducted on how island ecosystem functioning, flora, and fauna have recovered following these conservation measures. Moreover, little research has conducted to document how targeted restoration of ecosystem engineers on islands can help speed the recovery process. In particular, colonial seabirds are often major ecosystem drivers on islands as they feed in the marine environment and bring marine-derived nutrients back to otherwise nutrient-limited islands where they nest and rear their young. Invasive vertebrates often negatively impact seabirds, reducing the nutrients they provide, and thus resulting in ecosystem-wide effects. NIU’s Jones Lab has been studying the influence of seabirds in island recovery, dynamics of seabird recovery, and native species responses to invasive mammal removal.

Specific projects include:

Media Coverage

Popular Science Repelling the invaders: Killing invasive species may be rough, but it works

Los Angeles Times To save native island animals from extinction, eradicate the uninvited guests, study finds

Radio New Zealand New Zealand leads world in island conservation (March 22, 2016)

TakePart "When the Killing’s Done, Island Wildlife Roars Back"

Funding and Support

National Geographic Society

Waikato Regional Council

Pacific Seabird Group

Northern New Zealand Seabird Trust

Relevant Publications

Jones, H.P., N.D. Holmes, S.H.M. Butchart, B.R. Tershy, P.J. Kappes*, I. Corkery, A. Aguirre-Muñoz, D.P. Armstrong, E. Bonnaud, A.A. Burbidge, K. Campbell, F. Courchamp, P. Cowan, R.J. Cuthbert, S. Ebbert, P. Genovesi, G.R. Howald, B.S. Keitt, S.W. Kress, C.M. Miskelly, S. Oppel, S. Poncet, M.J. Rauzon, G. Rocamora, J.C. Russell, A. Samaniego-Herrera, P.J. Seddon, D.R. Spatz*, D.R. Towns, and D.A. Croll. 2016. Invasive mammal eradication on islands results in substantial conservation gains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(15), 4033-4038.

Russell, J. C., H. P. Jones, D. P. Armstrong, F. Courchamp, P. J. Kappes*, P. J. Seddon, S. Oppel, M. J. Rauzon, P. E. Cowan, G. Rocamora, P. Genovesi, E. Bonnaud, B. S. Keitt, N. D. Holmes, and B. R. Tershy. Importance of lethal control of invasive predators for island conservation. 2016. Conservation Biology, 30(3), 670-672.

Schweizer, D., Jones, H. P., & Holmes, N. D. 2016. Literature review and meta analysis of vegetation responses to goat and European rabbit eradications on islands. Pacific Science, 70(1), 55-71.

Borrelle, S.B.*, Buxton, R.T., Jones, H.P. and Towns, D.R. 2015. A GIS-based decision making approach for prioritizing seabird management following predator eradication. Restoration Ecology, 23(5): 580-587.

Kappes, P.* and H.P. Jones. 2014. Integrating seabird restoration and mammal eradication programs on islands to maximize conservation gains. Biodiversity Conservation, 23(2): 503-509.

Jones, H.P. and Kress, S.W. 2012. Global review of active seabird restoration projects. Journal of Wildlife Management, 76(1): 2-9.

Jones, H.P. 2010. Seabird islands take mere decades to recover following rat eradication. Ecological Applications 20(8): 2075-2080.

Jones, H.P. 2010. Prognosis for ecosystem recovery following rodent eradication and seabird restoration in an island archipelago. Ecological Applications 20(5):1204-1216.

Jones, H.P. and O.J. Schmitz. 2009. Rapid recovery of damaged ecosystems. PLoS ONE 4(5): e5653. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.000565

Jones, H.P., B.R. Tershy, E.S. Zavaleta, D.A. Croll, B.S. Keitt, and M.E. Finkelstein. 2008. Severity of the effects of invasive rats on seabirds: A global review. Conservation Biology 22(1): 16-26.

Jones, H.P., R.W. Henry III, G.R. Howald, B.R. Tershy, and D.A. Croll (2005). Predation of artificial Xantus’s Murrelet nests before and after black rat eradication. Environmental Conservation 32(4): 320-325.

As human extraction of resources grows and land-uses change, ecosystem restoration is becoming a critical tool to both stem biodiversity loss and ensure flows of key ecosystem services into the future. However, the science of ecological restoration is relatively young. It has yet to fully take advantage of the potential for cross-scale studies of restoration efforts to inform our understanding of ecosystem recovery, resilience and functioning and to hone restoration decisions. Rigorous tests of how scale affects ecosystem and restoration trajectories, and cross-scale investigations of strategies to maximize restoration outcomes, remain scarce. NIU’s Jones Lab has been analyzing how ecosystems recover from disturbances and the speed at which recovery occurs.


National Socio-Economic Synthesis Center

Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research


Media Coverage

Conservation Magazine "Wounds that can heal"

Science Daily "Most polluted ecosystems can recover"

Relevant Publications

Gerstner, K., D. Moreno Mateos, J. Gurevitch, M. Beckman, S. Kambach, H.P. Jones, and R. Seppelt. 2017. Will your paper be used in a meta-analysis? Make the reach of your research broader and longer-lasting. In press at Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

​Meli, P., H.P. Jones, K. Holl, J.M. Rey Benayas, D. Moreno Mateos, D. Montoya, P. Jones, M. McCrackin. 2017. A global review of past land use, climate, and active vs. passive restoration effects on forest recovery. PLoS One 12(2): e0171368.

McCrackin, M. H.P. Jones, D. Moreno Mateos, and P.C. Jones. 2017. Recovery of lakes and coastal marine ecosystems from eutrophication: A global meta-analysis. Limnology and Oceanography 62, 507-518.

Moreno Mateos, D. E.B. Barbier, P.C. Jones, H.P. Jones, J. Aronson, M.L. McCrackin, P. Meli, D. Montoya, and J. M. Rey Benayas. Anthropogenic ecosystem disturbance and the recovery debt. 2017. Nature Communications 9, 14163.

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Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy
325 Montgomery Hall
DeKalb, IL 60115
Phone: 815-753-1814
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