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Why Restoration?

What is restoration?

The goal of restoration is to restore a natural environment to a previous condition and reverse environmental degradation caused by human activities.  The first problem of restoration is deciding on a desired baseline.  Human activity will always be a factor in the natural environment, so this baseline must be realistic and take human influence into account.  Once a baseline is proposed, a plan is made to reconstruct the area.  Reconstruction in a tributary environment like the CCWP usually involves planting trees, stabilizing stream banks, and altering stream flow and sinuosity (how winding the stream flows).  The overall goal is to repair the function of the riparian buffer zone and increase habitat diversity, hopefully restoring biological diversity as well.

What is conservation?

Conservation is the act of preservation, protection, or restoration of the natural environment, natural ecosystems, vegetation, and wildlife.  After restoration efforts have been performed, conservation and monitoring techniques are used to make sure the natural system is maintained and kept healthy over an extended period of time.  The overarching goal of conservation biology is to preserve the environment and species within it in order to protect as much biological diversity as possible.  Biological diversity is a mark of health in natural environments; the more species persist in an area, the healthier the natural environment is generally considered.

Why is conservation and restoration useful?

Environments in a healthy condition offer much more to humans then degraded ones.  The goal of restoration is to restore a degraded environment to a more useful state.  When in proper condition, a healthy riparian zone offers protection from flooding and drought.  The trees along the banks stabilize the soil, reducing erosion and sedimentation downstream. Trees and vegetation remove pollutants and excess nutrients from land runoff, which reduces nitrification downstream.  Roots and vegetation along the bank can create habitat for invertebrates and fish.  Invertebrates are an important food source for fish, and fish become a valuable recreational activity for people enjoying the natural environment, as well as a possible source of revenue for parks and landowners.

What are ecosystem services?

Ecosystem services is a term used to describe the services the environment offers people for free just by doing what a healthy ecosystem does naturally.  When a natural environment is healthy, riparian zones offer buffering from flood and drought, and clean land runoff so the water downstream is healthier for those ecosystems.  Ecosystems downstream, notably the Chesapeake Bay, can become highly degraded by upstream pollutants and effluents.  Managing this problem can be quite costly when upstream environments are degraded.  By resorting upstream environments, ecosystem services are restored, and the water downstream is cleaned at the source.  In the long run, these restored areas become economically beneficial, because what we spend millions of dollars trying to fix – such as cleaning water through treatment plants or dealing with algal blooms after they happen – the environment can mitigate for free.