, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 55-72

Ecological restoration as a strategy for conserving biological diversity

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Abstract

Though the restoration of disturbed ecosystems has so far played a relatively modest role in the effort to conserve biological diversity, there are reasons to suspect that its role will increase and that its contribution to the maintenance of diversity will ultimately prove crucial as techniques are further refined and as pristine areas for preservation become scarcer and more expensive.

It is now possible to restore a number of North American communities with some confidence. However, it should be noted that many current efforts to return degraded lands to productive use, like attempts to reclaim land disturbed by mining, try only for rehabilitation to a socially acceptable condition and fall considerably short of actually restoring a native ecological community.

Possible uses for restoration in the conservation of biodiversity include not only the creation of habitat on derelict sites, but also techniques for enlarging and redesigning existing reserves. Restoration may even make it possible to move reserves entirely in response to long-term events, such as changes in climate. Restoration in the form of reintroduction of single species to preexisting or restored habitat is also a critical link in programs to conserve species ex situ in the expectation of eventually returning them to the wild. And restoration provides opportunities to increase diversity through activities as diverse as management of utility corridors, transportation rights-of-way, and parks.