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Conservation and Restoration in Bloom

Here in lovely northern California, where I work from a home office, the poppies are finally in bloom, scattering their cheerful yellow flowers generously across the main meadow. These days, the path to the mailbox is a festival of color, as poppies mingle with deep purple lupines, pale yellow buttercups, and new green grass just forming its seed. Permeating the air is the sweet fragrance of the white popcorn flowers—the essence of spring in this part of the Coast Range.

In the tiny town of Covelo, less than twenty miles away as the crow flies and four hundred feet closer to sea level, the poppies are not yellow but rather bright orange. What explains the difference in color, I wonder (and have wondered for years): Different soil? Lower elevation? Slight genetic variation in the species?

These are the kinds of questions that intrigue me—and why I find wild nature endlessly fascinating. Although natural history has generally dropped out of the curriculum in this century, everyone whose work involves place-based conservation and restoration projects knows how valuable this information is.

That’s one reason why working with authors in our book series on restoration (in cooperation with Society for Ecological Restoration International) is so satisfying. The fast-growing field of ecological restoration has been shaped, in part, by practitioners, whose technical knowledge combines long, hands-on experience with sound science. One of the goals for the series is to share that rare practitioner knowledge—such as David Bainbridge’s techniques for repairing degraded arid lands—with people working on similar projects around the globe.

If you want a sample of the series, take a look in the SER Restoration Reader, a free download that includes excerpts of all fifteen titles to date.