Restoration and rehabilitation of forest ecosystems

Ecosystem restoration and rehabilitation have become issues of great importance due to the degradation caused by man to nature.

The term rehabilitation is used here to describe all actions for the improvement of existing structural and functional features of an ecosystem in contrast with restoration which involves re-creation of structural features in order to re-establish functions, which have been destroyed by human activities.

The most important steps for the rehabilitation of a forest ecosystem are the identification of the size of degradation and the set-up of the rehabilitation objective. Degradation is estimated as the derivation from: a) a status which considered as stable (climax), b) the optimum (natural) status of the ecosystem, c) its productivity or d) its equilibrium state. In general, forest rehabilitation objective are:

  • improvement of the basic functions of the ecosystem,

  • increase in standing wood biomass and improvement of its quality, and

  • increase in soil productivity.

The rehabilitation methods are as mush as the ecosystems under consideration, since every ecosystem is unique. This makes the delivery of ready solutions impossible. In each case the rehabilitation measures should be selected taking into account the degradation status of the forest ecosystem, the rehabilitation objective and the available means. Nevertheless and for practical reasons rehabilitation methods can be distinguished in two broad categories, natural and artificial.

Natural methods are based on lifting the cause for degradation, and allowing for the natural recovery of the ecosystem. These methods include regulatory actions on human activities and modest vegetation management that foster natural recovery. After the intervention, the floristic composition gradually improves, an increase in plant cover is often observed and soil conditions are also improved. Natural methods show slow improvements at the beginning but the rehabilitation temp accelerates while the forest ecosystem reaches maturity.