INTRODUCTION:

An ecosystem is an area where abiotic and biotic factors interact with each other. There are four types of ecosystems: artificial, terrestrial, lentic and lotic.

Ecosystem restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.

Ecosystem restoration includes different activities to assist the recovery of ecosystem function and structure, and the associated services. Ecosystem Restoration requires an integrated approach of the following disciplines: soil science, hydrology, conservation biology, agronomy, forestry, horticulture and relevant socio-economical frameworks.

Earth’s ecosystems are degrading rapidly due to damage, unsustainable development and failure to invest and reinvest in their productivity. The well-being of the world population in today’s generation totally depends upon the conservation and restoration of the ecosystems. It is the only way to maintain and enhance biodiversity and ecosystem service, thereby contributing to sustainable development while reducing environment-related risks.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION?

Earth’s plants and animals rely on ecosystem to provide food and habitat. It is essential that ecosystems maintain a balance in order to stay vital. Humans also rely on ecosystem for food and natural resources. Human beings depend on healthy ecosystem for a lot of things such as sequestering carbon from the atmosphere for climate regulation, to cycle nutrients so that we have access to clean drinking water, purifying the air we breathe and for pollination of our crops. Healthy ecosystems are vital for human welfare as it provides essential products and services.Over 90% of our food comes from terrestrial ecosystems. Healthy ecosystems also provide energy, building materials, clothes, medicines etc.

Since, ecosystems are being degraded and exploited, ecosystem restoration aims to replenish these services. There is another major concern associated with degradation of ecosystem; it is the loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity loss could negatively impact our ability to grow food and access medicinal plants. It could also lead to loss of genetic diversity.Narrow range of genetic diversity could make few species more prone to diseases and puts them at risk of being unable to adapt to impacts like climate change. By restoring our ecosystem, we stand a chance of withstanding the environmental changes underway.

Ecological restoration is so important that recently, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) declared the decade from 2021 to 2030 the

“UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.”

WHY ARE HUMANS A THREAT TO AN ECOSYSTEM?

1) DEFORESTATION:
Trees absorb and store carbon dioxide. If forests are cleared, or even disturbed, they release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Forest loss and damage is the cause of around 10% of global warming. There’s simply no way we can fight the climate crisis if we do not stop deforestation.

2) EXTENSIVE FISHING :
For eternity our water systems have been seen as an endless source of food, but now in many parts of the world more fish are being caught than can be replaced through natural reproduction. As a result, fishing is becoming unsustainable in some lakes, rivers and seas across the earth. This impacts on the natural ecosystem within the area being fished and may cause entire species of fish becoming extinct.

3) WATER POLLUTION:
Water sustains life. Pollution occurs when toxic substances are dissolved in our lakes,rivers, seas and oceans. It’s one among the foremost serious threats to our global ecosystem. Sewage, industrial waste and agricultural chemicals are the foremost common sources of pollution. This poses a lethal threat to aquatic systems and may even contaminate our beverage.

4) USE OF PESTICIDES AND FERTILIZERS:
The World Wide Fund For Nature reports that the amount of pesticide sprayed on fields has increased 26-fold over the past 50 years. Farmers around the world are
increasingly using pesticides to protect their crops from being destroyed by pests.Unfortunately, many pesticides also harm and kill species that they are not targeted at. When it rains these pesticides are also washed away from the fields that they are intended for and infect surrounding landscapes, rivers, streams and seas. When rain washes the nutrients in fertilizer into the waterways near the fields that they were applied to, it causes an excess of nutrients in the water. These nutrients can cause a dangerously explosive growth of algae. Algae absorb an outsized amount of oxygen within the water and subsequently kill fish and other aquatic life.

5) OVERPOPULATION:
The earth is currently home to 7.6 billion people and some argue that we are reaching the point where the planet can no longer support the number of people living here. There is only a finite amount of land that can provide homes, farmland that can provide food and limited supplies of fresh drinking water and energy resources to travel around. The amount of individuals living and their demand for luxuries that are not essential, are already putting a strain on the earth’s resources.

6) CLIMATE CHANGE:
Climate change is especially risky for species because their ability to survive depends on a selected range of temperatures. As climate region shift across the world, species are adapting by moving at different rates to regulate with the climate. This disrupts the ecological balance when unfamiliar species encounter one another for the primary time. Additionally, some species, like coral reefs and amphibians are particularly sensitive to temperature and can’t survive.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION?

With reference to the environment, restoration helps reverse biodiversity loss and mitigate global climate change. Through protection and restoration, it reduces the pressures on endangered animal and plants species both ashore and underwater. Ecosystem restoration is additionally a natural climate solution to scale back heating, with ecosystems already absorbing around half the anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

Restoration of terrestrial ecosystem can improve nutrient cycling, water retention,pollination services and regulation of soil erosion. This benefits traditional agriculture production through improved crop or forage production. It also enhances the supply of other important ecosystem services.

Local and global economies can be supported by restoring degraded ecosystems. Ecological restoration also creates new job opportunities in rural areas such as nature-based tourism,game hunting, and businesses supported by native plant materials.

Moreover, healthy ecosystems also support healthy people. The danger of zoonotic diseases is increased when ecosystems are degraded and exploited by activities such as deforestation, habitat encroachment and destruction, etc.

Currently, we are facing accelerated pathogenic pathways for zoonotic diseases. The only option that can contribute towards preventing this is ecosystem restoration.

THE CHALLENGES OF ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION:

Restoration is often technically challenging and expensive. Thus, the conservation of intact ecosystems may be a less expensive option than restoration to make sure the flow of ecosystems services from a given landscape. Limited funding could also be a serious barrier to implementing ambitious global restoration commitments, so reducing restoration costs is vital to upscale restoration.

Ecological restoration is often difficult because it requires detailed knowledge of the autecology of variety of species and of the processes of succession development. The socio-economic issues regarding reforestation projects are complex. A further problem is that, unlike most agricultural crops, tree growing takes a few years to supply a financial return whereas most of the prices occur within the first few years. The cost issues disengage many landowners to take up restoration projects.

Another issue that concerns is that the sort of reforestation administered. Many landholders will use simple monocultures because these are the simplest to manage but monocultures usually offer only modest biodiversity conservation benefits. It has been observed that there is a increase in socio-economic problem when restoration projects have been attempted at a landscape scale.

CONCLUSION:

Ecosystem restoration can be beneficial in a lot of ways but it is not a substitute of conservation.While restoration can place a degraded ecosystem on an initial trajectory of recovery relatively quickly, full recovery can take upto decades, or even hundreds of years.Thus, restoration should not be used to justify destruction or unsustainable use.

– Content By Shuvangi Chakraborty