What is ecological restoration?
- Ecology is all about living things and how they act together in their surroundings.
- Restoration is about helping something that has been damaged or destroyed.
Ecological restoration is helping damaged or destroyed ecosystems. It usually involves bringing back lost plant and animal species that are found naturally in an area.
Ecological restoration may also involve taking something away. This usually means removing plants and animals that are not found naturally in an area.
What is an ecosystem?
An ecosystem is made up of living things like animals, plants, fungi and bacteria, as well as the environment they live in.
What makes up an ecosystem?
Image: Science Learning Hub, University of Waikato, www.sciencelearn.org.nz.
An ecosystem must contain producers, consumers, decomposers, and dead and inorganic matter. All ecosystems need energy from an outside source. This is usually the sun.
- Producers make food from inorganic matter. Plants are producers. Through photosynthesis, they use sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to make food.
- Consumers eat producers. They are unable to make their own food so must eat other plants and animals. All animals are consumers.
- Decomposers break down dead matter. These may be bacteria or animals that feed off dead plants and animals. This process releases nutrients for producers to use as they make new food.
- Inorganic matter is what non-living things are made from. These are things like air, water, rocks, soil and metals. Inorganic matter is important in an ecosystem because it is what producers use.
Watch this Youtube video: Understanding Ecosystems for Kids: Producers, Consumers, Decomposers.
Why is knowing about ecosystems important?
All parts of an ecosystem are linked. Anything that impacts on one part of the ecosystem will impact on others. Unfortunately, humans often do things that disrupt an ecosystem. Even though their actions seem small, they can have large effects.
What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity is short for biological diversity. It is the number and variety of living things found within an area. When we talk about biodiversity we generally think about the plants and animals that are special to New Zealand. This is our native and endemic biodiversity.
Native or endemic?
New Zealand has many endemic species. These are species that are not found anywhere else. This is not the same as being ‘native’. A species is native if it is naturally found in a location, but it may be found in more than one country. For example, the pūkeko is a native species in New Zealand, Europe, India and Asia, but the kākā is endemic to New Zealand. The mānuka shrub is native to both New Zealand and Australia, but the pōhutukawa is endemic to New Zealand.
Why is biodiversity important?
Our biodiversity provides life supporting systems. These systems enable all living things to survive, including humans. They provide resources and services, such as:
- clean air and water
- fertile soils
- pollution and flood control.
Other benefits include:
- cultural values
- a sense of identity.
A lot of New Zealand's biodiversity is found nowhere else in the world. This makes it special but also vulnerable. If these species are lost to New Zealand, they are lost to the world.
What happened to our natural ecosystems?
New Zealand’s ecosystems used to be able to handle a lot. But people have made changes to the landscape over time, such as:
- clearing land
- burning and felling forests
- draining wetlands
- building towns and cities
- introduced plants and animals
- using too many resources
This has damaged New Zealand's ecosystems.
Now, even small changes to an ecosystem such as climate change, can have a big effect on our native biodiversity. Giving nature a helping hand through restoration will help our ecosystems grow strong and resilient again. They will be better able to help themselves – and to help us too!