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Habitat Restoration for existing native Species

Restoring the natural habitats of native plants and animals is a complex project that has to be tailored to each particular situation. Different environments demand different actions. The only general rule that applies to the various individual cases is that the initial cause should be eliminated first. Even this is not always achievable. Habitat destruction can best be categorized by how quickly or slowly it takes place and whether it's man-made or not. To show the difficulties in establishing general guidelines, it's possible to give two greatly different examples in each of these categories.

A couple of examples of habitat loss that occur suddenly through a natural event would be a hurricane and a forest fire. The fact that one takes place mainly in water and the other on land illustrates that very different approaches are going to be required. Fires don't alter the physical geography. Hurricanes, on the other hand, have permanently changed the shape of shorelines. This can take away the chance of re-establishing a habitat where it once existed.

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Man-made disasters can happen as fast as natural ones. An oil spill or a dam collapse can wreak havoc on natural ecosystems. They also demand completely different methods to deal with them. An oil spill involves the rapid introduction of a hazardous chemical into the environment. Before anything else can be done, the flow of oil has to be stopped. Afterward, the oil has to be cleaned-up. Compare this to a dam break. Once the initial surge of water has passed, there's no longer a continuing disruption to the surrounding habitats.

Slow loss of habitat can be brought about by a variety of human activities. Expanding urban areas can destroy ecosystems gradually. This can wipe out a habitat directly, or it can become degraded by being segmented. This threat can be dealt with by preserving existing natural areas, re-establishing habitats in other locations, or by providing pathways between protected reserves to maintain biodiversity. The introduction of invasive plants and animals is another gradual form of harm that has to be handled very differently. Like an oil spill, the offending agent has to be removed. Since these are living organisms, not oil, they can reproduce and elude eradication. In many cases, the effort is focused on keeping the invader in check, not eliminating it. Examples of this would be attempts at controlling rabbits in Australia or kudzu vines in the southeastern United States.

Nature can endanger habitats through drawn-out events like droughts and erosion. Local climates can become dryer or wetter over time. Increased droughts in the western United States are thought to be a return to a typically dry climate. Natural beach erosion, though, can be stopped or slowed to preserve wild ecosystems. This can buy time that allows to move with the changing shoreline. With a gradually drying climate, ecosystems can become isolated and shrink.

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