Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Restoring our damaged ecosystems

Ecosystems provide many products and services that are crucial to human survival. For centuries, humans have exploited the Earth’s natural resources without concern for the state of the original ecosystem or the impact of our footprint on nature. Humans have greatly modified the structure and function of global ecosystems. The earth is being subjected to many human-induced and natural changes. These changes include increased demand for resources by economic growth, increased human population, land- use and land-cover change, urbanization, industrialization, increased consumerism and environmental pollution contribute to an increased impact on global ecosystems. In many parts of the world, forests are shrinking, deserts are expanding, soils are eroding and agricultural lands are deteriorating. The emission of carbon dioxide and green house gases is almost certainly causing global warming. Discharge of pollutants has degraded the atmosphere, the hydrosphere and the geosphere in industrialized areas. Natural resources including minerals, fossil fuels, fresh water and biomass have been stressed and depleted. Human activities are destroying the earth’s biodiversity at an unprecedented and accelerating rate. Now the global ecosystems are suffering a critical stress. The degraded ecosystems do not provide the same quality of ecosystem services as fully functional and integral ecosystems. An effective strategy is to prevent further degradation or a loss of an ecosystem is counterbalanced by restoration.

Definition of ecological restoration

In 2004, the Society of Ecological Restoration defined ecological restoration as “the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed.”Ecological restoration makes a substantial contribution to the ‘greening’ of the planet through Ecological Engineering (the management of nature) or Ecotechnology (the transfer of ecological principles into ecological management). Restoration ecologist attempts the disturbed ecosystem to reassemble it, to repair it and to adjust it so that it works properly.

Restoration goal

The goal of restoration ecology is the restoration of a degraded ecosystem to their natural condition or the creation of a new ecosystem to replace the one that was lost.Restoration has been called the ‘acid test’ of ecology because of the substantial challenge it represent.

Restoration approaches 

Restoration is the process of rebuilding a degraded ecosystem. Ecological restoration is an intentional activity that initiates or accelerates recovery of an ecosystem with respect to its function (processes), integrity (species composition and community structure) and sustainability (resistance to disturbance and resilience). It enables abiotic support from the physical environment, suitable flows and exchanges of organisms and materials with the surrounding landscape and the reestablishment of cultural interactions upon which the integrity of some ecosystems depends.
 It may have 3 – approaches:
Re-vegetation – re-establish the vegetation cover.
Reclamation – making the ecosystem more habitable to wildlife.
Rehabilitation – rebuilding essential structures and functions of degraded ecosystems.
Ecological restoration re-initiates ecological processes. The restored ecosystem in the course of time self-organizes and becomes increasingly self-sustaining. Restoration ecology and conservation ecology are related because the restored ecosystems provide habitat for species threatened by human impacts.

Restoration components

Generally this can involve many different elements, depending on the ecosystem and the degradation that has occurred. Essentially the process needs attention of 3 aspects:
1. Re-modelling the physical aspects of the habitat;
2. Re-modelling the chemical aspects, nutrients and toxicity; and
3. Replacing missing species or removing undesirable exotics.

Restoration benefits

Ecological restoration helps protect biodiversity, mitigate climate change, sequester carbon, reunite indigenous peoples with their landscapes and cultures and restore a healthy relationship between people and nature.

No comments:

Post a Comment