Good news about restoring river ecosystems
It is a commonly held belief that most ecosystems take about a lifetime to recover after damage is introduced by humans. However, researchers at Ohio State University are finding that initial recovery can be dramatic if the right conditions are present. The discovery was made while monitoring how dam removal impacted local species.
The studies focus on the reintroduction of birds and salmon to the habitat. What they found was that if just birds were introduced, they tended to have low weight and poor numbers of offspring. However, when dams came down and salmon and fish were put together, both species flourished and impacted the surrounding ecosystem positively.
The author of the initial study, Christopher Tonra said that, “It’s exciting to be able to show a real positive outcome in conservation. We don’t always get that…That these rivers can come back within our own generation is a really exciting thing.”
Although for many environmentally minded folks, it is likely not news that species work in tandem to create a healthier environment, what’s important about this study is that it’s showing just how quickly these different species can reinvigorate the natural ecosystem and environmental health in areas that were previously barren.
That’s partly because the returning salmon populations, which carry nutrients from the open ocean, bring these birds exactly what they need to thrive. “They’re truly fertilizing the river and so that makes its way all the way up through the food chain,” Torna said.
This study could have a huge impact on how to fertilize or reinvigorate previously damaged ecosystems, especially those previously impacted by dam systems. Returning the basics of the wildlife population -such as fish- could mean we see change within years rather than decades.
Amazon river image via Shutterstock.
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