Why blog on GIS and ecological restoration?
But beyond these justifications, there is value in exploring how GIS is aiding in ecological restoration. At least there is to me. I have been involved in the field of ecological restoration since 2005 and hope to leave graduate school with the skills necessary to be a decision-maker in this field. I have seen the importance of GIS in the projects I’ve worked on. GIS-generated maps were employed to identify suitable nesting habitat for the orange-breasted falcon in Belize. Decommissioned and newly restored natural gas well sites with cheat grass invasions were mapped for the BLM with ArcMap. And known Olympia oyster habitat in Yaquina Bay was documented using GPS and GIS, complete with habitat data in an attribute table.
What is ecological restoration?
The Society for Ecological Restoration defines this growing science as:
“the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.”
Degradation, damage, or destruction are usually caused or at least exacerbated by anthropogenic influences. The ways humans in which can alter ecosystems seems to be of as much diversity as the multitude of ecosystems that exist on earth. Whether by dam or by drill, by fire or fill, or by plow or pollution, humans continue to alter the systems of the planet. But a growing field seeks to alter systems for good–to initiate or accelerate an ecosystem’s return to health, integrity, and sustainability (Society for Ecological Restoration [SER], 2011).
Restoring a system to a previous or historic state closely resembling what it may have looked like prior to human disturbance requires setting clear goals and a rationale for restoration. It also requires an understanding of the restoration site, the former state of the restoration site, a designated and fully understood reference site, an understanding and explanation of how the restored site will integrate with surroundings, explicit plans and bugets, well-defined performance standards, monitoring, and a clear strategy in dealing with challenges (Society for Ecological Restoration [SER], 2011).
While this is a process full of complexities , there are tools that can help in achieving restoration success. The use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is one such ally in restoration management. GIS may help managers understand surrounding land use and how it may be contributing to the degradation of a system or how restoration activities may impact the users of such lands. It may make analysis of the progress of restored vegetation or water flow easier. Or it may help to produce the visual products needed for communication with decision makers and the public. Indeed, GIS is a powerful weapon in natural resource management and the burgeoning field of ecological restoration relies on GIS.
This blog will explore how GIS is contributing to restoring the world’s ecosystems–from marine to aquatic to terrestrial–and help further my understanding for career applicability. And, hopefully, a good grade in GEO565.
References: Society for Ecological Restoration [SER] website. http://www.ser.org/content/ecological_restoration_primer.asp#3. Accessed February 07, 2011.