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Restoration Ecology

Difficulties Of Ecological Restoration, Restoration, Rehabilitation, And Replacement, Some Successful Examples Of Restoration Ecology

Restoration ecology refers to activities undertaken to increase populations of an endangered species or to manage or reconstruct a threatened ecosystem. Ecological restoration is an extremely difficult and expensive endeavor, and only attempted when the population of an endangered species is considered too small to be self-maintaining or the area of a threatened ecosystem is not large enough to allow its persistence over the longer term.

Restoration ecology can have various goals. A common focus is on endangered species and their habitat. In such a case, a species might be preserved in its remaining natural habitat, conserved by strictly controlling its exploitation, enhanced by a captive breeding and release program, and/or have its habitat managed to ensure its continued suitability. For example, the Galapagos Islands are maintained undisturbed by human development and multiple endangered species are thus, protected. In a more developed or suburban setting, this method is impractical and too expensive to implement. In the case of the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus), only few remaining natural habitats are carefully maintained, but the birds themselves are also monitored by visual observation and radio tracking. Several attempts have been made to increase the species population through breeding programs.

If a complement of species is being managed in some region, for example in a national park, the goal might focus on ensuring that all of the known native species are present and capable of sustaining their populations. If some species have been extirpated, there may be an effort to introduce new breeding populations. Habitat management might also be a component of this sort of multi-species goal.

If an endangered natural community is the focus, a project in restoration ecology might attempt to repair degraded remnants that still remain, or try to reconstruct a facsimile of the natural community. Restoration of the natural community may be accomplished by introducing native species missing from the ecosystem, and by managing the local environment to ensure the survival of all components of the community in an appropriate balance. The goal of community-level projects is to restore self-maintaining ecological communities that are as similar as possible to the original. This aspiration is rarely attainable to perfection, although it can be approximated to a significant degree.

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