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Will restore threatened habitats

restaurering semi-naturlig eng4_cropped

Photo: Line Johansen

Many habitats in the agricultural landscape have high levels of biodiversity and are important for the world’s food production. Several such semi-natural habitats are now threatened across large parts of Europe, and NIBIO will find new restoration solutions.v

Semi-natural habitats have been formed through extensive management such as making hay, grazing and burning heather. We have now lost so many of these species-rich habitats that it is no longer enough to take care of the land that is left. The destruction must now be reversed, and the land restored.

Ecological restoration means recreating an ecosystem that has been changed, damaged or destroyed, and to help return it to its original condition. Restoring an entire ecosystem is very complicated and involves more than just bringing back plants. However, through proper management, researchers think that habitats can be given a second chance.

In the RESTORE project, the researchers are developing tools to assess the potential for and the effect of restoring selected habitats including semi-natural meadow, semi-natural marsh and coastal heathland.

– “We will tailor measures for each area to restore the desired habitat,” explains project lead Line Johansen.

For example, this could be recreating coastal heathland on a wind farm. This is an extensive restoration where it may be necessary to change the soil and sow different types of seeds. In other places the challenge could be encroachment, and an appropriate measure there would be to remove forest.

The researchers will identify the extent to which a habitat can be destroyed and yet still be restored. The hypothesis is that the potential for restoration is great. Even severely degraded areas can regain their original ecosystems. But it relies on the restoration being followed up with extensive management.

– “The aim is to make it possible for anyone to use the tool who wants to help restore semi-natural ecosystems,” says Johansen.