Ecosystem restoration is the continuous process of aiding in the recovery of damaged or degraded ecosystem functions. Ecosystems form the basis of all life on the planet. They are made up of diverse communities of animals and plants that interact freely in their environment.
WHAT DAMAGES AN ECOSYSTEM?
Damaged ecosystems cannot effectively support plant and animal life. Several factors can damage, destroy, or degrade an ecosystem. Most of the destructive factors are attributed to biotic and abiotic elements:
Earth’s natural resources are being depleted at an alarming rate. Vast areas of forest cover are cleared to make room for agriculture and other activities. This leads to the loss of habitat for some animal species.
Over-exploitation creates an imbalance within the ecosystem and can cause the affected animals to migrate. The loss of biodiversity in an ecosystem can cause damage to its functions.
Farming practices deplete the nutrients in the soil. This may prevent plants from growing in a given ecosystem.
The world’s oceans are over-exploited due to overfishing. This greatly affects the marine ecosystem.
Climate change is defined as the long-term shift in weather patterns and temperature.
Due to climate change, animals and plants can no longer thrive in some ecosystems.
Animals may migrate to look for favorable conditions.
Since plants are immobile, they cannot move to other areas, so they are likely to die.
Pollution is the introduction of harmful substances into the environment. The chemicals used in farming can pollute the soil and water sources. This will increase environmental acidity, resulting in the loss of plant and animal biodiversity.
Greenhouse gasses such as nitrogen and carbon dioxide can affect the organisms in an ecosystem.
Carbon dioxide emissions cause a rapid increase in global temperatures. This phenomenon is called global warming.
An invasive species is any animal, plant, or organism that is not naturally from an ecosystem. Invasive species often cause harm to the natives.
In the animal kingdom, invasive species may prey on other organisms that are below them in the food chain.
This can cause a reduction in the number of certain animals in the ecosystem. Most animals are forced to leave their ecosystem when there is an invasive species.
Invasive species can disrupt food chains and may also cause extinction.
Land-use change is the process by which humans transform the natural landscape of a piece of land.
Agricultural land use degrades soil quality. With time, the soil’s chemical and physical properties may change.
Consequently, this can reduce the number of microorganisms in the soil.
Soil microbes play an essential role in plant growth. They aerate the soil and allow plants to recycle nutrients. Without them, some plants may fail to grow in an ecosystem.
HOW TO RESTORE THE ECOSYSTEM
Ecosystems are self-healing. With the right conditions, they can repair and restore themselves. Plant and animal communities can recover from damages caused by the factors highlighted above with human intervention:
Reduce Carbon Footprint
Carbon footprint refers to the total amount of greenhouse gas produced by human activities. By reducing the carbon footprint, the planet won’t be affected by global warming. As a result, the ecosystem functions won’t be disrupted, damaged, or degraded.
Removal of Invasive Species
Invasive species can change how the natives of a particular ecosystem interact in their habitat. The removal of an invasive species will restore balance within the ecosystem.
Use Natural Fertilizers
When used continuously, artificial fertilizers can pollute rivers, lakes, and oceans. This can affect the aquatic life forms found in these ecosystems. Natural fertilizers are safe for all ecosystems.
Reducing tillage on farmlands can help preserve soil structure. This will improve soil fertility, allowing plants to thrive.
Avoid Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels produce greenhouses gasses when they are burned. These gasses can raise acidity levels in water sources and the soil. The animals and plants in these ecosystems are likely to die due to chemical imbalance.
WHY IS ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION IMPORTANT?
Healthy ecosystems can provide plants and animals with everything that they need. Organisms can effectively interact in a fully functional ecosystem without experiencing any problems.
Ecological Restoration Preserves Biodiversity
When animals are comfortable in an ecosystem, they won’t move to other areas. They are also less likely to go extinct. This also applies to plants and other organisms.
Improved Water and Air Quality
When plant and animal communities interact, their population is likely to increase. As mentioned before, trees can clean the air that we breathe. This also prevents acidity in water bodies since the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will be minimal.
Good agricultural practices can increase food production. Plants won’t lack pollinators, and neither will animals lack food.
Prevents Climate Change
Ecological restoration can increase forest cover. Trees can reduce the number of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, thus preventing global warming.
Creates Ecosystem Restoration Jobs
Ecosystem restoration practitioners can seek employment in various ecological sectors. Global movements such as the Ecosystem Restoration Camps provide people with great opportunities to help restore ecological balance.
ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION PROJECTS
Environmental organizations from different parts of the world carry out environmental restoration projects regularly. These projects ensure there is effective implementation of restoration strategies.
Goals of Ecosystem Restoration Projects
Ecosystem restoration projects aim to create a habitat in which all plants and animals can coexist and interact freely.
This involves improving the functions of an ecosystem that has been degraded or damaged.
This is the restoration of vegetation cover in areas where trees have been cut. This greatly improves the ecosystem and also preserves biodiversity in a habitat.
This is the process by which an existing ecosystem is improved to favor certain plants and animal species.
THE ENVIRONMENT NEEDS ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION
Most ecosystems in the environment are endangered. If the right mitigation strategies are not applied, plants and animals will die. Mass destruction of ecosystems is increasing at a rapid rate.
The effects of ecosystem destruction are evident in the extinction of animal species. Plants are equally affected. These problems can be prevented through timely ecosystem restoration.