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Divers in the Nusa Islands Coral Reef
Nusa Islands Coral Reef, Indonesia.

Restoring the Everglades

6 ecological restorations around the globe

Restoring the Everglades

Climate change and environmental issues firmly reside at the top of every global sustainability agenda. Achieving meaningful ecosystem restoration depends on strong commitments and substantial efforts in order to safeguard the future survival of our planet. This is the reason why the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the third decade of the 21st century as the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. But the work around the globe has been ongoing for quite some time already. Here are 6 examples of important ecosystem restoration projects in modern time – besides the Everglades.

A park in China
Qiaoyuan Wetland Park, China. ASLA 2010 Professional Honor Award in General Design. Tianjin Qiaoyuan Park: The Adaptation Palettes.Turenscape, China and Peking University Graduate School of Landscape Architecture. | Photo by Cao Yang

1. Qiaoyuan Wetland Park, China
In the early 2000s, the government of the coastal city of Tianjin in China hired Kongjian Yu, founder of the Beijing design firm Turenscape to transform a 0,2 square kilometer (ca 500 acres) extremely polluted illegal dumping ground. Alongside his design team, Kongjian Yu came up with a solution that resulted in the Qiaoyuan Wetland Park which opened in 2008. Innovatively, the park features micro-topography via a naturalized landscape of ponds which all vary in size and depth, where nature does all the work collecting acidic rainwater, neutralizing alkaline soil, repairing urban brownfields and ultimately reintroducing the structure of the native wetland which is predominant in the area. At the same time, it also features walkways and viewing platforms for visitors. 

The project has been a huge success, proving how nature can indeed revitalize a refuse heap and turn it into a pragmatic recreation area. 

River flows through winter mountain landscape
The Elwha River is again home to a large number of different fish species.

2. Elwha River, U.S.
The largest dam removal project in U.S. history was completed in 2014 when the two dams of the Elwha river in Washington were dismantled. For over a hundred years, they had been blocking migration of salmon upstream, disrupting the flow of sediment downstream and flooding culturally significant sites. With the removal of the dams, the river is once again playing host to a large number of different fish, a new estuary is taking shape, revegetation is thriving, and a formerly submerged native American ceremonial creation ground has been exposed once again. This is indisputable proof of the enormous impact river restoration can have on the well-being of all living things across the board. 

Several Guanaco in a mountain landscape
As a result of the big restoration in Patagonia, the area now serves as a national park.

3. Patagonia Grasslands, Chile
The 1,6 million square kilometers (ca 400 million acres) of Patagonia’s temperate grasslands in Chile support a unique biological and cultural heritage. In 2004, the NGO Conservación Patagónica bought 898 square kilometers (ca 220,000 acres), that formerly served as an overgrazed ranch, in the Chacabuco Valley with the aim to restore the grassland ecosystem by rewilding. The valley’s grasslands were never suited for raising livestock and the vast amount of grazing resulted in an onslaught of invasive species and desertification. In order to salvage the Patagonian ecosystem, almost all sheep and cattle were sold off and over 644 kilometers (ca 400 miles) of fencing has been removed and recycled. Restoration ecologists and conservationists continue to develop management plans for the area regarding reseeding and erosion control practices. The combination has led to wildlife returning to the area with the repopulation of the native guanaco herds, which have risen from a population of a few hundred to an estimated size of several thousand.

The newly lush grasslands now serve as inspiration for the continued restoration of the land and creation of a national park. 

4. Nusa Islands Coral Reef, Indonesia
The Nusa Islands Restoration Project began in 2018 as an attempt to reverse the degradation of reef areas along the northern coastline of Nusa Penida in Bali, Indonesia. 

The same year, an area of degraded reef was picked out for the pilot study with the aim to determine which restoration techniques would be best suited for the unique environmental conditions around the area. A site plan developed which focuses on the use of modular coated metal frames and rubble fencing for substrate stabilization and a floating coral nursery was created to provide healthy parent stock for the transplants – without the need to harvest from surrounding reef or the use of unhealthy coral colonies. 

Site monitoring has been continuous since 2011 and a dedicated team of biologists, interns and volunteers from Blue Corner Marine Research are working fastidiously to ensure that the restoration of this unique coral reef is successful.

A lemur in a tree
The restoration in Madagascar has secured life for the lemur.

5. Fandriana-Marolambo Forest Landscape Restoration, Madagascar
The Fandriana-Marolambo landscape in Madagascar is the home to iconic moist forests, rich in unique plants and wildlife, including eight species of lemur which do not exist anywhere else on the planet. Deforestation due to agriculture was a huge threat but thanks to a forest landscape restoration project native trees are making a comeback and the biodiversity is thriving once again. The region is also home to 150,000 people from three ethnic groups and with the help of WWF better agricultural practices have developed resulting in an increase in food security and income. The people have also been educated in community-based forest management and have now fully taken over from WWF. Furthermore, the Marolambo National Park has been established granting further protection to the forest areas. 

In order for the forests to continue thriving it is vital that the surrounding community continues to play an important part, as one cannot live without the other.

6. Monjebup Fauna Ecological Restoration, Australia
Australia’s Monjebup North area is considered a global hotspot for biodiversity, under threat from large-scale land clearing carried out in the mid 20th century. The area is home to unique and diverse fauna and flora, making ecological conservation a top priority which is why it was purchased by Bush Heritage Australia. An extensive restoration program began in 2011 with several different techniques being used, including the development of habitat debris piles to encourage the return and occupancy of fauna, ground-dwelling reptiles, marsupials and native rodents. 

By 2018, 2,500 hectares of Monjebup North had been revegetated. With the recent year’s fires ravaging Australia it is perhaps more important than ever to shine a light on ecological conservation and its many benefits. 

Sources: International Union for Ecosystem Restoration, American Society for Landscape Architects, National Geographic, Society for Ecological Restoration, Blue Corner Marine Research, Patagonia Park, The Guardian, WWF, Decade on Restoration. 

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