What is ecological restoration?

[Music] – Ecological restoration is a process of assisting the recovery of ecosystems that have been damaged, degraded, or destroyed. – Prairies, wetlands, forests, savannas, these days are utterly dependent on people under modern conditions they die out. In Illinois, less than one hundredth of one percent of the original prairie is left. – We have small remnant prairie parcels that become smaller and smaller as more development occurs. Additionally, these small remnants are infested with invasive species that out-compete native species and are changing the way that these ecosystems function. And our species diversity diminishes. – If these places disappear, if they’re developed, they’re sold, on a very basic level you see localized extinctions of rare plants and animals. Which is a tragedy in of itself. Another really important thing to consider is the impact on people. – These plants, the trees that we have out there are helping to clean the air that we breathe. And a lot of the storm water that falls within Cook County crosses the Forest Preserve District property at one time or another. A healthy ecosystem is going to be able to absorb and manage more storm water than one that is not. That’s a huge benefit to neighborhoods not flooding. – Ecological restoration is a process that starts from large scale removal of invasive species and then it’s collecting native seeds, spreading native seeds, protecting species that are vulnerable. – Three hundred sixty-five days a year you can find us doing ecological restoration here at The Morton Arboretum. And some of these woodlands that have a history of agriculture, it’s a disrupted environment that we’re looking to restore to what it needs to be to function in the long term. For example, oaks. They need a little bit more wide spacing to populate and bring on the next generation of oak trees. So we’re going to be thinning here to provide that kind of spacing. – Ecological restoration is happening all around the world. But not just in big wilderness areas. Ecological restoration is happening in our own neighborhoods and in our own communities. – You’ve done this before, right? So just take a little bit of seed and just scatter it over here. This is an area that has invasive reed canary grass that was killed earlier this year. We herbicided it and so in it’s place we are sowing 15 different species of native wetland plants. – My personal site where I’m the volunteer steward is called Somme Prairie Grove. I’ve been working on it for 40 years. And there now 490 plants, more than twice as many plant species as there were originally. Some came from seeds where those plants don’t exist anymore, that plant would be gone from the planet but there it is in our little 90 acres at Somme Prairie Grove. We caught something only just in time before many of the last of these species were gone. The work is very far from done. – Restoring these natural areas is critical and when people become involved with managing the landscape, invasive species can be controlled, native species can be reintroduced, and ecosystems can be restored. – Nature needs you. Come, help out. I think you’ll be glad you did.