Prescribing Innovation within a Large-Scale Restoration  Programme in Degraded Subtropical Thicket in South Africa


Commonly cited requirements for bridging the “science-practice divide” between  practitioners and scientists include: political support, communication and experimentation.  The Subtropical Thicket Restoration Programme was established in 2004 to catalyse  investment in large-scale restoration of degraded subtropical thicket in the Eastern Cape,  Forests 2015, 6 4329 South Africa. Political support has been strong, with the South African government investing  more than US$8 million into the programme. Communication occurred regularly among a  wide range of stakeholders, and a restoration experiment—comprising 12 treatments and  ~300 plots—was established over an area of ~75,000 km2. Despite this support,  communication and experimentation, many pitfalls were encountered. For example, one  restoration protocol became entrenched in the programme’s public as well as private sector  operations without continual scrutiny of its efficacy. This was largely because results from  the large-scale restoration experiment only emerged a decade after its conceptualization. As  the programme enters its second decade there is recognition that a full range of “intelligent  tinkering”—from small, rapid experiments to large, long-term experiments—needs to be  planned and prescribed. The new working hypothesis is that prescribed innovation will reduce costs of restoration, increase survivorship of plants, increase income streams from  restored landscapes, and promote new financing mechanisms for restoration.