Concern about climate change has led today’s societies to recognize the importance of the link established between ecology and the economy, as well as between natural capital and people’s quality of life. In this context, in order to propose effective solutions to the current ecological crisis, ecosystem restoration plays a fundamental role. Based on the conservation and rehabilitation of non-functional ecosystems, ecological restoration is conceived as a tool of great value in the trajectory of global society, towards a more sustainable future and in harmony with nature.
What is ecological restoration and what is it for?
According to the Ecological Restoration Society (SER) , ecological restoration consists of the application of processes that allow the recovery of those ecosystems that have been degraded , damaged and / or destroyed. It is a practical approach that includes a wide variety of techniques and methodologies that allow the analysis and improvement of these ecosystems. In this way, we can affirm that within its main goals, ecological restoration serves to:
- Maintain the proper functioning of ecosystems , the conservation of biodiversity , and their sustainable management.
- Improve the physical, socio-economic and cultural aspects related to the protection of ecosystems.
- Promote positive and evolutionary relationships between human beings and the landscapes they inhabit.
- Prevent the effects of adverse climatic factors such as erosion and floods, as well as guarantee the stability of soils as substrates and the maintenance of hydrological systems.
Next we will see, step by step, what are the main phases that are carried out in any ecological restoration process :
- Preliminary studies of the environment , which include all the information related to the territorial framework of the area to be restored, the communication routes, the use and use of the land, the socioeconomic environment, the climate and biodiversity, as well as the heritage elements ( possible archaeological sites) and an exhaustive analysis of the landscape, in which the different landscape units that comprise it are defined. All this would be collected in what is commonly known as the Environmental Inventory.
- Development of the object (general) and the objectives (specific) of the restoration project.
- Analysis of the current legal and regulatory framework applicable to the development of restoration activities in the area to be restored.
- Consideration of the antecedents, essentials and conditions that limit the possible actions included in the restoration project. The existence of possible Special Protection Areas for Birds (SPAs), as well as the presence of endangered species , invasive species , natural parks and areas of special interest and conservation should be considered.
- The most appropriate alternative to the restoration project is selected and justified , after having analyzed other possible alternatives and their Weaknesses, Threats, Strengths and Opportunities (SWOT analysis matrix).
- Preparation of the action map in which each of the steps to be followed during the restoration of the different parts included within the action area is explained in detail. Likewise, the type of management, reconditioning, dismantling of the land and other possible activities are detailed.
- Design of plantation frames and selection of specific plant species to reforest the restoration area. There is a wide variety of methodologies for planting and applying natural and artificial plant covers, as well as the possibility of opting for plant succession and adaptive management that allows the natural development of native species without the intervention of human beings.
- Finally, an environmental surveillance plan is carried out to monitor the activities carried out and their long-term follow-up.
In this last section we will define the different types of ecological restoration that exist according to their purpose, as well as some examples of the most surprising restoration projects that have been carried out in different countries:
Types of ecological restoration
- Remediation: allows the cleaning of ecosystems that have suffered the discharge of polluting substances. For example, it is done through phytoremediation , but also with other techniques.
- Claim: a new use is given to the ecosystem for a specific, socially and environmentally acceptable activity.
- Reforestation: forests or other types of vegetation are restored after they have been eliminated. Learn more about what reforestation is and its importance here.
- Facilitation: the development of other species is promoted.
Examples of ecological restoration projects
- Restoration of mining complexes for environmental and scientific dissemination purposes: Eden Project (England), as well as the creation of an amusement park in La Salina de Turda (Romania).
- Restoration of ecosystems damaged by the dumping of toxic products of industrial origin: Corredor Verde del Guadiamar (Andalusia, Spain).
- Restoration of Bridges, Roads and Other Paths: Hanging Flower Tunnel in Japan.
- Restoration of wetlands and forests to favor tropical agriculture: Lacanha Chansayab, Chiapas (Mexico).