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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Ecosystem Restoration One Grove and Marsh at a Time

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Tuesday, January 26, 2016/Categories: natural history, sustainability, environment

If you are trying to restore a damaged ecosystem, you need to know the situation prior to becoming degraded. Whether it is restoring a silted-up trout stream, a overgrazed prairie, or a damaged coastal wetland, you need to have a perspective of what it was like before so benchmark goals can be established for a successful restoration project.

But what if the landscape has been so altered that there are few if any historical references to use as guides? That was the situation facing the San Francisco Estuary Institute  as they considered recovering pieces of Bay Area that had been altered beyond recognition since the Gold Rush days in the mid-19th Century. Using fragmentary references from Spanish chroniclers, early miner's diaries. a random newspaper article, and some early photographs, ecologists at the Institute began developing a historical picture of how the region appeared before the sprawling suburbs, industrial dockyards, and plowed agricultural fields.

Establishing what they are calling their Resiliency Landscape Program, the ecologists have now established ongoing public projects in degraded estuariesSacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystemSacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystemSacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystemSacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystemof the Sacremento-San Joaquin delta; an effort to restore 40 miles of the Napa River that once meandered through the famous wine region; and a tree-planting program to establish oak groves, where thousands of the ancient trees had once grown in coastal valleys, by using acorns from the few individuals that still stand.


SF wetlands ca 1850 and new projects (credit: BayNature)  Historic Bay wetlands with complex channelling (credit: SFEI)

In the process of restoring parts of the original landscapes Robin Grossinger and his colleagues also restored ecosystem services by re-engineering natural flood control mechanisms and by rebuilding more diverse wildlife habitats. They are also developing practical methodologies that could be easily adapted by other communities wishing to restore degraded lands in their region. The SFEI team leader discusses their perspective on restoration:

Perhaps your own region could use a bit of restoration. Many degraded places exist that would be worthy of being given some new life.



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