We cannot survive a single day without the natural environment. It is the only thing that makes life possible and sustainable. Thus it is important that we take care of the ecosystem of the natural environment. Ecosystem restoration is the renewing of a degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystem through active human intervention. Restoration ecology emerged as a separate field of ecology in the 1980s. John Aber and William Jordan motivated people towards ecosystem restoration in the 1980s. Restoring our planet’s imperilled ecosystems intrinsically connects us to a healthier future. We must work together to bring life and function back to our scarred ecosystems through extensive and pro-active restoration of degraded areas, to improve habitat for wildlife, protect our soils and watersheds, support economic resilience, and better confront a changing climate.
Restoration of various kinds of ecosystems has some common elements, such as:
? Removing physical stressors (the cause of degradation).
? Controlling invasive species.
? Protecting areas from further degradation.
? Re-introducing species if necessary.
? Reclamation and minimising of further degradation.
The vision of ecological restoration is that of a better tomorrow, where ecological processes, functions, and attributes are restored.
Types of ecosystem restoration:
According to the UN, “We are losing about 4.7 million hectares of tropical forest every year.” Forests cover nearly one-third of the earth’s land area and they contain over 80% terrestrial biodiversity. Both the extent and quality of forest habitat continue to decrease due to increasing population pressure across the world. Here is an overview of important considerations related to forest restoration.
? Planting late-successional tree species and early successional shrubs can be an effective means of restoring forests that are under high abiotic stress.
? Planting trees is essential to restore forest ecosystem. Preventing fire, removing cattle, and adding fertilisers around natural tree seedlings are some of the steps.
? Forest restoration is an inclusive process and depends on collaboration among a wide range of stockholders including local communities, government officials, NGOs, and funding agencies.
? Increase the number of trees across the landscape and prevent land degradation through improved agricultural practices.
? Restore degraded lands to agricultural productivity, which increases food production and alleviates pressures on existing forests.
? Plant fast-growing trees. People in South Korea have been planting fast-growing trees and the country has increased its forest cover from 35% to 71% of the total land area between 1953 and 2017.
Aquatic ecosystems are degraded by a variety of pressures as a result of growing human populations. Many aquatic ecosystems are in need of drastic corrective restoration.
? Prevent siltation of the river bed (soil erosion of agricultural land is one of the main factors behind the siltation of rivers).
? Prevent the construction of reservoirs on a large scale on rivers.
? Restoration strategies increase the complexity and heterogeneity of river movements.
? Prevent nutrient loading by preventing vegetation growth in lakes.
? Re-establish the hydrological functioning channels.
Restoration of mined areas
Mining and mineral processing adversely affects the ecology of the area by disturbing the landmass, the water system, and the floral and faunal population.
? Ecorestoration put into practice has been proved as an effective tool to revive disturbed fragmented forests with respect to their health, integrity, and sustainability.
? Ecorehabilation – by reducing rates of soil erosion and increasing soil fertility – results in increasing biological productivity.
? Artificial seeding of grasses and legumes or both has been a commonly used method to stabilise unconsolidated mine tailings and to encourage the natural invasion of trees and shrub seedlings.
? Successful restoration of floristic diversity in mining areas not only facilitates the natural process of speciation but also becomes a source of germplasm of various species. It improves all environmental conditions aesthetically, including economical aspects.
In conclusion, ecosystem restoration can help us achieve all our sustainable development goals. Restoring ecosystems large and small protects and improves the livelihoods of people who depend on them. It also helps to regulate disease and reduce the risk of natural disasters.
The writer has an MPhil from Jiwaji University, Gwalior. [email protected]