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Habitat restoration refers to projects meant to replenish an ecosystem's natural resources following natural or man-made damage. In some cases, habitat restoration is critically important to the survival of native species, the integrity of soil or water, and the continued existence of a natural ecosystem. There are many different types of habitat restoration, including reforestation, riparian buffering, prairie restoration, and coral reef restoration. Engaging in habitat restoration of any kind can help ensure the future of ecosystems that have existed, in some cases, for thousands of years.
Reforestation includes the planting of native trees, shrubs, and grasses to restore a forest area. Reforestation may be necessary after an area has undergone extensive logging or suffered a natural disaster such as a forest fire. If animal species have vanished or suffered greatly reduced numbers from a forested area due to deforestation, reforestation projects may include attempts to re-introduce species into the wild, often from captive specimens. Since an ecosystem is often reliant on an evolved system of interactions between native animals and native plants, it is important that reforestation projects stick to recreating the natural balance of species, rather than importing exotic plants or animals into a new environment.
Riparian buffering is a type of habitat restoration that ensures the integrity and existence of natural water sources. The riparian buffer is the belt of rocks and plants that run alongside the boundaries of a river or stream. Vegetation keeps the water in a stream or river free from sediment by creating a solid barrier instead of an easily-crumbled soil bank. Restoring riparian buffer zones following construction projects, deforestation, or floods, can help ensure that natural water sources remain viable in an ecosystem.
In North America, no habitat has seen as much devastation as the great prairies that stretch across the middle of the United States and Canada. Though developed prairie land allows for many of the farms that help feed the world, the unique species and advantages destroyed through prairie loss may have an important impact on the environment. Historically, prairies have been filled with tall grasses and wildflowers that allow the promotion of bee populations, along with supporting a great many other species. Without bees, cross-pollination is nearly impossible, which makes growing sustainable crops an enormous challenge. Prairie habitat restoration seeks to turn eroded plains into flower and native grass habitats that can support bees as well as many endangered prairie species.
Coral reefs are by far the greatest sources of life in the ocean. Thousands of marine plant and fish species make their homes among expansive reefs, which are oases of life and refreshment amongst the great barren areas of the marine landscape. Coral is sensitive to temperature changes and acidic balances, and is frequently destroyed to create fishing channels or through harvesting for consumer products. Coral habitat restoration uses both synthetic corals and coral-reseeding programs to help ensure that reefs remain filled with life and diversity.