water, and minerals and multiple layers of interests have solidified in the status quo. If this history has resulted in the degradation of resources or ecosystem services, or even the viability of human living space, the complexity of human interests creates resistance to unraveling the damage. This difficulty is compounded by the complexity of the physical, chemical, and biological processes themselves, which makes it difficult to predict the results of changing resource utilization or other societal action. Yet, society needs Earth surface scientists to construct models for assessing the probable effects of various possible restoration actions. The models may initially be crude and may require sequential elaboration and refinement. Learning how to develop such assessment tools in a politically sensitive, useful way requires that natural scientists studying Earth’s surface processes collaborate with social scientists who study all of the other processes that affect the surface, as well as with practitioners in industry, engineers, and planners.
Landscape restoration is a complex, high-priority goal for many researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and the public, but only recently have these different communities begun to examine together the legacy of past restoration efforts in the context of new data from specific regions of the Earth’s surface. Earth surface scientists have vital contributions to offer as restoration activities are carried toward quantitative models and predictions. Just as importantly, Earth surface scientists are in position to guide future decisions through inclusion of understanding of human-process interactions, even while recognizing uncertainty and limits of predictability. Such guidance may enhance the goods and services that Earth’s surface provides to society and thereby produce enormous economic benefits, as well as aid in developing a sustainable living surface for the next generation.