Ecosystem Restoration Challenges


Many challenges exist in regards to ecosystem restoration. Although this is not a complete list, stressors and threats, development/consumption trends and the necessity of maintenance are discussed below.

Stressors and Threats

Although there are many factors at play in an ecosystem, stressors are identified factors that disrupt equilibrium and include "both natural processes and the human activities that exert stress on natural communities" (Chicago Region Biodiversity Council, 1999). One of the main challenges to the effectiveness of ecosystem restoration is the need to reduce stressors in the environment. Currently changes in hydrology and water quality, the suppression of fire, and changes in competition from the increasing presence of invasive species are a few of the most concerning stressors for the region's ecosystems (Ibid). Often human actions result in the creation or acceleration of an ecosystem stressor. For example, the draining of a wetland for development (action) results in changes to the natural hydrology, fragmentation of the landscape, and soil modifications (stressors). Natural processes can also cause stress on ecosystems. However the difference between natural and human influenced stressors is the time frame. Native communities have adapted to natural stressors over a much longer time comparably. In addition natural stressors are now being amplified by human influenced stressors. The table below provides examples of stressors and threats to our region's natural communities (Ibid).

Table 3: Ecosystem Stressors and Threats
Source: Biodiversity Recovery Plan (Chicago Region Biodiversity Council, 1999)

Ecosystem Stressors and Threats

  • Changes in hydrology
  • Nutrient loading
  • Poor agricultural practices
  • Fragmentation of landscapes
  • Wetland drainage
  • Increased salinity
  • Impervious surface
  • Erosion and increased sedimentation
  • Increased runoff
  • Loss of structural diversity
  • Changes in topography
  • Overabundance of deer and other animal species
  • Changes in competition
  • Pollution (air and water)
  • Fire suppression