The Importance Of The Restoration Of Desert Ecosystems

Human encroachment has caused most ecosystems to be destroyed. All eyes are on the Amazon rainforest, Great Barrier reef and other spectacular places. They overlook many other deserts throughout the world, which are also in similar condition. Many of these deserts, such as the Mojave, Sahara and Gobi, are in decline. The natural process of the system’s recovery can be slowed by these conditions. Many studies have been done to accelerate this process. It is important to pay attention to soil nutrients and retention as well as local flora and fauna interactions in order for desert ecosystems to be restored around the world. What is causing deserts such as the Mojave to become more arid? As with many other areas, the main culprit is human development. Farming, cattle, mining, as well as other activities that take land from its natural habitat in exchange for monetary profit, are all contributing factors. The most common cause of habitat destruction and the most destructive is overgrazing by cattle. Robert Webb and Steven Stielstra (1979), the cattle overgraze the land and cause more damage than the ecosystem can withstand. This has led to ecosystems becoming barren over the past century. Webb & Steven 1979 show that this decreased plant cover has been linked to an increase of erosion and runoff. There is much to be done after all this damage. Let’s look at the soil. This is the most important step in almost any restoration effort. Before you plant, it is important to understand what plants can grow in which areas. You can see that desert soils are more sandy and less nutritious than other types. The Encyclopedia of Soils in the Environment the World Soil Map section of H. Eswaran (2005) outlines the main soil types in arid regions of the Earth. Entisols can be found in areas that have been heavily eroded and lack significant soil formation. They are mineral-rich soils that are constantly being eroded. There are many sub-categories to Entisols. The desert variety is Psamment. The shifting sands are what make up the mobile sand dunes in the desert. The same section is written by Reich and Eswaran (2005). Aridisols have some nutrients and layering, but are not properly hydrated. These arid soils do not support most plant life. There is no point in the calendar where the soil is sufficiently hydrated to allow for three months continuous growth. Aridisols can also make it difficult to grow plants because they often contain salts which are then redistributed to the horizons. The soil remains very alkaline despite the fact that these salts are water-soluble (Eswaran and Reich 2005). However, this ecosystem is home to many plants, including legumes, cacti and deep-root trees. This is why restoration efforts are focusing on it. Many challenges are required to overcome the shifting, arid soil and slow growth. Desert degradation is caused by the destruction of plant life or excessive grazing. This means that the soil can no longer support the sand. This causes many problems like the increased severity and frequency of sand-dust storms, and the onslaught caused by desertification. Desertification refers the destruction of “arid/semi-arid” and “dry sub-humid regions”. This is usually caused by human activities (Li Y. 2009). This is why soil retention is a key component of desert restoration. Li, X. R.. Xiao H. L.. He M. Z. (2006 research paper) looked at one way to retain soil in a desert landscape. This was using straw in a checkerboard layout. The straw acts in a temporary leaf and helps retain the desert soil so that the plants can grow and keep the soil in its place. The “Mechanical Sand Fence” is a structure made of bamboo and willow that acts as windbreaks.

Next, wheat straw is placed in ground in sufficient quantities to partially stick out from the checkerboard. Next, native xerophytic bushes are planted in 1-meter-by-1-meter squares. The structures can withstand drought for up to 5 year, which gives plants time to develop. Li, X. R. (2006) and his colleagues decided to do their own experiment to see if this was possible. For a total 120 plots, they set up four testing sites. They used various shrubs and herbs to create the “quadrates”, which were 4 locations. After collecting soil samples, measuring dust deposition along the checkerboards, they examined the bulk density as well as the pH levels during the study. The research concluded after six years. They found that straw checkerboards were more effective than native xerophytes in increasing species richness, groundcover, dust deposition, and accumulation of silt in the topsoil. This technique is very effective for desert restoration in areas where the sand-binding vegetation has been removed. What should you do if there aren’t enough nutrients and water? Or if your plants have difficulty taking root or getting established? This is why it can be difficult to restore desert ecosystems. Some plants can fail even in more temperate and nutrient-rich environments. This is especially true in degraded ecosystems. If animal herbivory is high, transplant survival can drop to 25% or worse. 2015). This must be a priority in any effort to revegetate the site. This issue can be overcome though. Scott R. Abella was a collaborator with Lindsay P. Chiquoine and Alice C. Newton. Cheryl H. Vanier worked on a solution for this issue in the Journal of Arid Environments v115 (2015). They studied rooting hormones. Nutrient rich slurry. Soaking treatments. Irrigation. Topsoil replacement. The young plants were kept under observation in a nursery before being given any of the treatments. They discovered that IBA rooting hormonal, soaking, or slurry treatments didn’t increase survival rates in the nursery. Topsoil replacement was a better option, increasing survival to 56% from 25%. The winner was irrigation, which increased the plant’s survival rate to an average of 65%. This information can be useful in understanding the best practices for restoring an ecosystem that will increase plant survival and reduce unnecessary costs. Some plants have a more restricted range of growth options, which can make it difficult to recreate the same conditions. Bacilio M. Hernandez J. P. Bashan Y. (2006). Research by Bacilio, M., Hernandez, J. P., and Bashan, Y. The “resource island” is where the soil fertility and nutrients are higher. This is where the majority of the cactus grows. They looked into the effects of compost on the growth and Azospirillum Brasilense, a growth-promoting bacterium to stimulate it. The compost was more effective than the bacterium in increasing cacti’s growth. The compost was mixed in proportions of between 6% – 25% to simulate the “resource islands” soil that the Cactus prefers. It led to an increase in growth. This shows how soil variation such “resource islands”, as well as soil, can be recreated artificially through restoration. What if these conditions were created naturally by restorationists? Due to their nutrient deficient nature, deserts often depend on the biotic interactions of animals and plants. Ross A. Virginia (1990), Desert Restoration. Role of Woody Legumes. They play a key role in the Sonoran Desert’s nitrogen fixation. They help increase soil nutrients and provide “resource islands” for the ecosystem (Virginia R. 90).

Ross explained that the roots of legume trees develop with bacteria that fixes nitrogen, increasing soil fertility. The leaves of legume trees eventually fall off, and then they decompose. Decomposition results in the release of all nutrients and cations from the soil. It deposits these nutrients on the topsoil, creating a richer soil. This alters the soil’s physical and chemical properties over time, creating “resource islands”, which are important for the Cardon Cactus as well as other key species. Ross does admit that the tree’s importance is not insignificant, but it is time-consuming and challenging to get them established. For deep roots to be established, they need to have a certain amount of soil moisture. This is not something that happens naturally every ten years. You can improve water seepage by using restoration methods such as deep ripping or 3m-deep auguring holes. We’ve already discussed soil types and how to fix them, as well as the steps required to introduce native plants species. This development is not just beneficial to native vegetation. It also benefits invasive species. Overly aggressive, non-native animals and plants can cause havoc to the restoration work. This is the bane of any restoration project. The normal practice is to regularly spray and cut them off. This is a time-consuming and labor-intensive method that works well. Researchers have begun to look into native species to help reduce the impact of invasive species (Abella, Abella, and others). 2012). Scott Abella, Donovan Craig and Stanley Smith studied native plant species to determine if they could be used in a restoration project. Prairie grasses are the most common invasive species found in desert ecosystems. Many of them grow in the dry summer and become invasive after the rainy season. This fire causes the slow-growing populations of native grasses to die, and the pyrophytes, or invasive grasses, then reappear in a vicious cycle. Bromus rubens (red Brome), and Schismus Arabicus & barbatus are some of the invasive grasses they were looking to control. The study (2012) was about sampling native plants for invasive reduction. They examined a variety of aggressive and early-growing species, including flowers and grasses. The best strategy to defeat invasive species is to plant early season flowers communities, including the desert globemallow species Sphaeralceaambigua. However, the other species didn’t fare as well and lost ground. They also examined nitrogen levels to determine how this affected the spread and resulted in significant increases in both (Abella S. R. et. al 2012). This can lead to two conclusions. It is possible to find natural solutions to problems when trying to restore ecosystems. It also addresses the potentially harmful effects of nutrient additions that were discussed earlier. Restoring desert ecosystems can have unique perks, in keeping with the same theme. The best way to eradicate exotic and invasive species from deserts is to restore their habitat. Degradation and alteration of an environment can lead to non-native species flourishing and becoming invasive. Invasive fish were a problem at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is situated in the Mojave Valley oasis. Physical and chemical treatments proved ineffective so they sought out other options (Scoppettone and al. 2005). Gary Scoppettone and Chad Gourley conducted the study and examined a section that had turned into a cold water marsh over time. In the past, large concrete ditches and levees were used to divert water from the hot springs. The changing environment allowed for the introduction of Poecilia pinna (sailfin moly) and Gambusia anguisia affinis (mosquitofish). The water temperature was raised to 18-32 degrees C and the flow rate adjusted to 30cm/s. There were visible changes.

The restoration of native fish such as the Ash Meadows speckled dragonfly and the pupfish made it possible for them to compete with non-natives. The restoration of desert ecosystems should not be limited to other animals. Michael A. says rodents play a crucial role in the Southwest’s desert ecosystem. Pattern (1997) was a researcher who looked into the possibility of rodents being reestablished in shrubland. This was an old construction site in Palm Springs. It had been completely devoid of vegetation. The main goal of the restoration was to restore the landscape’s 15% shrubbery as indicated by the natural borders. Michael believed that vegetation was not a good indicator for fauna health. Even though the goal of 15% shrub cover was achieved, the vegetation was still very different to that in undeveloped scrubland. This had little effect on native rodent communities. This was likely due to non-vegetative factors such as water availability and ant competition. This is an indication of how important other ecosystem factors are for restoration. Simply having plant cover goals won’t be enough. As mentioned previously, native animals can become important members of an ecosystem once they have been integrated. Native animals play an important role in soil fertility and health. The Chihuahuan Desert is home to small mammal burrowing. These disturbances also help control erosion. Similar studies have been done by Alex James and David Eldridge (2009). They examined the role burrowing animals play in shrublands of the same type as the site. They looked at four species of vertebrates in South Australia’s desert land. These animals’ foraging holes contained higher levels of nitrogen and carbon, with rabbits and goannas contributing 55% and 55% respectively. This is a critical step in ensuring seedling viability, and the establishment of shrubland. Let’s not forget about animals. Overgrazing can be a part of an ecosystem if it is managed properly. Northwest China was the site of a study on the interactions between grazing practices and desert ecosystems. After 26 years of monitoring grazing, ZhiYu Zhou and Feng-Rui Li examined the changes in nitrogen and carbon in desert shrubland soil. The results showed a significant rise in vegetation, plant diversity, productivity and soil C andN levels. Studies have shown that disturbed grazing can cause ecosystems to be more resilient. The deserts of ecosystems are complex, and they depend on many organism interactions for their health. This paper will cover many of the subjects discussed and it will be difficult to restore them. The soil is low in nutrients and highly erodible, so it will be necessary to take steps to address this. After the soil is fixed and nutrients have been added, other problems can be addressed. Both animals and plants depend on each others so it is worth considering. It will be necessary to remove invasive species and monitor the site for signs of progress. Because this is a slow-growing ecosystem, it may take several years. All the hard work and restoration will be worth it in the end.

Related Posts