Before the restoration of the Hole-in-the-Donut began the area was very homogeneous—consisting primarily of Schinus Terebinthifolius—therefore any action to rid the area of this intrusive clearly is an aesthetic improvement. S. Terebinthifolius is a prolific exotic that grows in a tangled mess that is unsightly, and prevents the establishment of most species. Its removal, and the establishment of a variety of other species of pants will greatly heighten the beauty of the area.
The Hole-in-the-Donut restoration project was paid for entirely by a private developer who was required by Local, State and Federal off-site mitigation regulations to provide the funding for the experiment to be conducted. Without the $640,000 this project may not have been carried out, therefore the fact that mitigation regulations are in place has initiated the ecological restoration of the Hole-in-the-Donut.
Recreational enhancement as a means for ecological restoration is very important, for the Hole-in-the-Donut is located in Everglades National Park—which attracts many tourists and sightseers. The Hole-in-the-Donut is located in Everglades National Park, which attracts many tourists and sightseers, therefore recreational enhancement, as a means for ecological restoration, is important. The fact that visitors come to Everglades National Park to enjoy the ecosystems of the Everglades provides incentive to improve the overall structure of the Hole-in-the-Donut.
1. Enhance. The planting of native hammock trees in a campground would help to generally support the surrounding community is such a way as to be beneficial.
2. Mitigate. The establishment of wetlands by FP&L would, in effect, be a means by which the company would redeem itself for destroying an existing habitat.
3. Recreate. Complete alteration of the habitat has occurred to the habitat, therefore it is necessary that it be rebuilt or remodeled in the likeness of the original community.
4. Rehabilitate. This action partially restores the population of Florida Panthers to allow the population to subsist by providing the necessary genetic diversity.
5. Remedy. The cattails provide relief to the community from an introduced contaminant. The firm’s action is correcting a wrong to help bring the community back to the state at which it naturally exists.
6. Reclaim. The area exists as refuse, therefore by procuring it the firm is shifting it to a suitable condition that can be utilized by humans.
7. Remedy. The removal of the exotic fish corrects a disorder that was present when the fish existed in the community. Their removal encourages the community to return to its natural state.
8. Enhance. The establishment of a marsh strengthens the structure of the artificial lake community. This augmentation is something that is entirely new to the system.
9. Rehabilitate. The hammock species that were originally endemic to the island have been returned, but the island is not completely restored. It still lacks the mangrove community; therefore it has been restored only in part. (Replace)
10. Rehabilitate. Only one aspect of the restoration of the abandoned agricultural lands is enacted, thus it is only a partial movement towards creating an improved community.
The removal of a stressor from a natural system, allowing time and opportunity for a natural recovery, is often not enough for it to be brought back to an original condition. In such instances systems require restitution for the human induced changes. Yet, to what extent shall the system be restored? For defining a level of restoration for any one system is very difficult because it encompasses so many aspects. Many individuals have attempted to define it, but no one definition has yet been agreed upon universally.
The National Research Council (NRC) has defined restoration as “…the return of an ecosystem to a close approximation of its condition prior to disturbance.” The NRC definition continues on by stating that restoration involves repairing the ecological damage, and recreating the structure and functions of the ecosystem. Also important in restoration is the emulation of a natural, self-regulating system that involves integration of the system with the surrounding ecosystem, which promotes self-maintenance. Several additional aspects of restoration could include, “…reconstruction of antecedent physical, hydrologic, and morphologic conditions; chemical cleanup or adjustment of the environment; and biological manipulation…” This definition is quite inclusive, though it does appear to neglect the involvement society has in restoration. Ecological restoration involves the communication of humans with both natural systems and with each other. It seems quite pointless to restore a system that is likely to be disturbed again due to a lack of care and preservation.
Included in restoration is the condition the ecosystem should be restored to, for oftentimes it is unlikely for a system to be returned to its prior condition. Therefore, as A. D. Bradshaw states, it is necessary one to understand both “…the nature of the system…” and “…the nature of the damage…” to the system.
Other aspects that help to define restoration include a system’s sustainability, invasibility, productivity, nutrient retention and biotic interactions—as stipulated by John J. Ewel. Previously mentioned in the NCR’s definition of restoration was the recreating and repairing of the system. Restoration may also include the entire replacement, or substitution of one community for another, or simply the rehabilitation of the system by partially restoring specific features. Restoration may also comprise the enhancement of community structure and functions, or, depending on the circumstance, the recreation of the structure and functions of the ecosystem. One may also include the reclamation of a system for human use.
The human population is growing at an extremely fast rate, and as a result of this the need to acquire natural, undisturbed lands has also increased. Development continues to infringe upon habitats, thus fragmentation can only become increasingly more problematic.
The distance of separation between different fragments can seriously affect dispersion of the species within the fragment habitats. A break as small as 80 meters can effectively hinder the movement of some insects, mammals and birds. Visits to sites away from the home site by 15 species of bees were found to decrease as the boundary between fragments increased (Powel and Powel, 1987). This threatens the reproductive cycles of plants in the fragmented sites that are reliant upon the dispersal of seeds by insects. This can act to thwart species diversity within a particular fragment habitat; which, therefore, can make it increasingly more difficult to restore such a site. The integrity of the site can become weakened, for smaller populations have a greater chance of extinction if faced with a typical ecological disturbance. Small mammal movement between fragments was studied by Malcom (1991), and it was determined that an 80 meter boundary break is sufficient enough to deter movements. Such a restriction of movement of mammals is also a restriction of genetic exchange between species of animals.
Other problems that can be encountered when attempting the restoration of a fragment community are those of edge effects. Biological and physical affects on the system can be the result of the disruptive interactions that occur due to an abrupt change in habitat. Soil moisture, the abundance and diversity of plants and animals, as well as microclimatic variations along the edges of the community can differ from those in the center of the site. The penetration of the edge effect is more severely felt by smaller site—larger sites resist damage to its structure and function less severely than smaller sites. Restoration, therefore, becomes increasingly more difficult as the area of the fragmented community decreases. Smaller sites are harder to maintain, and are subject to rapid declines in species abundance and diversity. They are also prone to losses in genetic variability and heterozygosity, and to genetic drift. All of these increase the possibility of extinction of particular species, in addition to decreasing their resistance to change. Management costs for small, isolated sites are higher, which further creates problems in regards to their restoration.
I have selected pine rockland habitats, mainly because they seem to be continuously threatened with the possibility of extinction very possible. Much of this original habitat has been destroyed—only about 2% now exists—therefore I feel any small amount may be somewhat useful in helping to prevent its demise.
Much of the vegetation found in pine rocklands are tropical, and are found only in South Florida—Dade, Broward, Collier and Monroe Counties. Most of the species that are found in hammocks are also found in pine rocklands, thus they have high plant species diversity, with the potential for supporting a large variety of animals. The assortment of vegetation may attract organisms, thus strengthening the structure and function of the community. Restoration can encourage an increase in animal diversity and abundance.
A pine rockland is capable, within a 5 year or so span of time, of initiating the beginning stages of a seral change from a pine rockland to a hammock. The top story may begin to become more filled in with growth that has the potential to shade out the light sensitive understory. The understory of a pine rockland is quite a unique feature of this type of community. Of the 250 or so herbs that grow there, over half are found only in pine rocklands. Therefore, with so many endemic species found there the restoration of these habitats is important to the South Florida ecosystem, and their persistence should be ensured.
One of the most important aspects of the restoration of a pine rockland is deciding where the actual site will be located. Oftentimes, in restoration this is not an option, but choosing a site that is in such a location as to encourage the movement of species between other sites would be ideal. Such a corridor, may help to maintain genetic diversity, preventing genetic drift, which could threaten the integrity of pine rocklands.