What exactly is an ecosystem and how do you restore one?
An eco-system is part of the web of life, made up of plants, animals and other organisms, together with the landscape (rivers, mountains, etc) around them.
Ecosystems can be large, like a forest, or small, like a pond. Many are crucial to human societies, providing people with water, food, building materials and a host of other essentials. They also provide planet-wide benefits like climate protection and biodiversity conservation.
But in recent decades, humanity’s hunger for resources has pushed many ecosystems to the breaking point.
Here are some examples of eco-systems and what can be done to restore them.
Over-intensive use, soil erosion, excess fertilizer and pesticides are exhausting many farmlands. Ways to restore them include reducing tillage, using more natural fertilizer and pest control, and growing more diverse crops, including trees.
Forests and trees are being cleared to feed humanity’s hunger for land and resources. Logging, firewood cutting, pollution, invasive pests and wildfires are damaging what remains. Restoring forest ecosystems means replanting and reducing the pressure on forests so that trees re-grow naturally. Food systems are a major driver of forest loss. Reconsidering the way people grow and consume food can help reduce the pressure on forests. Degraded and disused farmland can be ideal for forest restoration, which can also mean nurturing patches of forest and woodland in landscapes that include busy farms and villages.
Lakes and rivers
Freshwater ecosystems have been degraded by pollution, overfishing and infrastructure as well as the extraction of more and more water for irrigation, industry and homes. Restoration means halting pollution, reducing and treating waste, managing demand for water and fish, and reviving vegetation above and below the surface.
Grasslands and savannahs
Shrublands, grasslands and savannahs are being overgrazed and eroded, converted to agriculture and invaded by alien species. Humans can help them rebound by clearing woody vegetation and re-seeding native grasses. Lost plants and animals can be re-introduced and protected until they are established.
Find out about other eco-systems and how they might be restored at: https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/beginners-guide-ecosystem-restoration