Humans have degraded a large portion of natural land. The field of land conservation has become popular as a way to fix this problem. Land conservation attempts to combat land degradation through preservation, restoration, remediation, and mitigation.
Think about the world around you and how it has changed over the years. During most of our lifetimes, we have seen large changes in the environment around us. We may have seen forests be cut down for housing or farm fields be turned into a shopping center.
Although some of these changes are necessary for human survival, as we convert more and more natural land to developed land, there is a growing concern over the amount and quality of the natural land that remains. Some people are concerned that we are destroying all of our natural land, and in recent years, there has been a large push to protect our land.
Land conservation is the process of protecting natural land and returning developed land to its natural state. Due to the fact that some land has only had minor disturbances and other land has been completely destroyed, a variety of techniques are needed to carry out land conservation. Some of the most common techniques include preservation, restoration, remediation, and mitigation.
Preservation of the environment means that lands and their natural resources should not be consumed by humans and should instead be maintained in their pristine form. Preservationists strongly believe that humans can have access to the land but should only utilize it for its natural beauty and inspiration.
They think that the value of the land is not in what you can use from it but instead that land has an intrinsic value, meaning that it is valuable in itself simply by existing. Under this form of land conservation, humans would no longer be able to use certain land for human use but would be able to enjoy it for its natural beauty, which would help protect the land for many years to come.
One of the most famous preservationists is U.S. history is John Muir. John Muir was a Scottish immigrant who lived from 1838 to 1914 and had a large admiration for California's Yosemite Valley. Muir was a strong advocate for the complete protection of land and believed that people should only use the environment for enjoyment and not as a resource for goods. The influence of John Muir is still evident today through the continuation of the Sierra Club and the establishment of the Muir Woods National Monument, a preserved area of land in Northern California that is home to an ancient redwood forest.
Another technique used in land conservation is restoration, which is the process of returning ecosystems and communities to their original natural conditions. In order to restore an ecosystem, scientists must first examine the current environment and do research to determine the historical conditions of the ecosystem. They want to determine what the environment was like before it was altered by humans. Once they have assessed the environment, scientists will develop methods to try to bring the area back to its original state. This often includes introducing native animals, planting native plants, restoring waterways to their natural path, and removing human infrastructure.
In the Florida Everglades, in the United States, there is an enormous restoration project going on. The Everglades are a complex system of marshes and grasslands that flood seasonally. These areas have been becoming drier over the last few decades because the water it relies on is being used for irrigation and development and is managed for flood control. The restoration project is trying to restore the flow of water to the area by undoing dams and other water-control features. If this project is successful, it will benefit the region because it will bring back wildlife that has left due to the drying conditions and help increase ecotourism in the area.
Remediation is the process of cleaning a contaminated area using relatively mild or nondestructive methods. The main goal of remediation is to clean and restore the contaminated area while causing as little disturbance or harm as possible. Scientists often use a variety of methods for remediation, including chemical, physical, and biological methods to remove contamination.
One interesting method of remediation is known as bioremediation. Bioremediation is the use of naturally occurring or purposefully introduced organisms to break down pollutants. This technique was used following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Naturally occurring bacteria were used to clean up the oil. The bacteria were able to ingest and break down the oil into less harmful substances.
Another technique used in land conservation is mitigation, which is the process of replacing a degraded site with a healthy site that is of equal ecological value in a different location. The purpose of mitigation is to compensate for destroying one area by purchasing or creating a new area that is of equal ecological value. This technique is less desired than the other land conservation techniques because it still allows land to be destroyed.
There are laws in place that require developers to replace wetlands that they destroy while making their homes. They are required to replace the type of habitat and the native species and also make sure that the new habitat functions properly.
Another common example of mitigation is the replanting of trees. In some areas, when logging companies harvest trees, they are required to plant the same number or more trees of the same species in order to replace the ones removed. This is sometimes done in the same area or in an area near the original harvest. They replant the trees in an effort to sustain the natural ecosystem and reduce the impact of harvesting trees on the rest of the ecosystem.
Now let's review land conservation and some of the more common techniques used. Land conservation is the process of protecting natural land and returning developed land to its natural state. As humans develop and harm different ecosystems, a variety of techniques are needed to try to save the environments and protect the remaining land.
Preservation is when lands and their natural resources should not be consumed by humans and should instead be maintained in their pristine form. Preservationists believe that land is valuable for its intrinsic value.
Restoration is the process of returning ecosystems and communities to their original natural conditions. Scientists examine historical information to determine what an ecosystem was like before human development and develop methods to try and return the area to its original state.
Remediation is the process of cleaning a contaminated area using relatively mild or nondestructive methods. These techniques, such as bioremediation, are done in order to clean and restore a contaminated area while causing as little disturbance or harm as possible.
The final land conservation technique is different than the others because it still allows land to be destroyed. Mitigation is the process of replacing a degraded site with a healthy site that is of equal ecological value in a different location. With mitigation, a company or person is able to develop or destroy land as long as they compensate by purchasing or creating a new area.
Although all of these land conservation techniques are currently in use, there is a need for more strict conservation efforts in order to ensure that we as humans do not destroy all of the natural land we have left.
After you have reviewed this lesson, you should be able to:
- Explain the ideals behind land conservation
- Describe preservation, restoration, and remediation conservation techniques
- List some of the remediation methods used by scientists
- Explain mitigation and why it is less preferred than the other conservation methods