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Disturbed Land Restoration

Table of contents

        NPS Management Policies
        Program Objectives
        General Restoration Steps
        Special Restoration Situations


Several hundred thousand acres throughout the National Park System have been disturbed by recent human activities. Human disturbances of ecosystems and the physical landscape can affect all aspects of natural systems because of the direct and indirect interactions between physical and biological processes. Many of these disturbances conflict with the mission of the NPS and the mandates of National Park System units.

This section provides guidance for park staff and managers faced with the challenges of restoring disturbed systems. Although the physical aspects of restoration are emphasized in this section, restoration is fundamentally an interdisciplinary pursuit that involves the assessment and alteration of the biological and physical systems and the interactions between the two. The restoration of a sustainable ecological system often depends on the successful restoration of the physical conditions and processes with which the biological community evolved. Likewise, the ability of a system to sustain physical conditions and processes often depends on the condition and sustainability of the biological environment. Therefore, this section should be read in conjunction with the sections in this Reference Manual about aquatic systems, vegetation, soil, and nonnative plants and animals.

The term natural system restoration is often used as a conceptual rather than an absolute goal. Although a standard dictionary defines restoration as returning something to a former or unimpaired condition, the NPS's use of the term natural system restoration recognizes that reaching the former or unimpaired condition may take many years to decades. Therefore, natural system restoration by the National Park Service typically involves correcting resource interactions that function unnaturally and ensuring that the directions of the recovery processes are along the proper trajectory, rather than attempting to recreate the end state of an unimpaired natural system. For example, removal of materials of a roadbed may be sufficient to allow for recruitment of plant species (via seed bank or seed rain) into that reclaimed area. If plant community succession is facilitated in this way and requires no other active management or species introductions, then the area may be considered restored. Note that monitoring this process is essential to such a determination and that considerations of animal species (especially invertebrates) and other microbial organisms that control many functions of an ecosystem make the claim of complete and successful restoration difficult. This makes the selection of appropriate and realistic goals and objectives all the more important to a project.

First explained in this section are the steps that are generally used to restore NPS natural resources damaged by all types of disturbances such as abandoned structures or developments; abandoned mineral lands; abandoned or unauthorized roads; disrupted natural stream channels, floodplains, wetlands, or shoreline processes; agricultural areas; areas harvested for timber; campgrounds; and visitors' activities. The general steps are followed by information relevant for particular restoration projects, such as reducing hazards associated with mines, plugging abandoned wells, and restoring disturbed natural resources in a wilderness.

Disturbed Land Restoration Table of Contents | RM#77 Table of Contents
update on 02/05/2004  I   http://www.nature.nps.gov/Rm77/restore.cfm   I  Email: Contact Us
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