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Community-level enhancements of biodiversity and ecosystem services

Frontiers of Earth Science

Abstract

A common management technique for preserving and maintaining biodiversity is the establishment of large refuges and preserves. Although extensive sanctuaries can provide crucial protection for many organisms and ecosystems, they cannot fulfill all the needs of regional conservation. An alternative to a few large refuges is to create many different habitats across the landscape that enhance and improve local and regional biodiversity and provide immediate benefits to nearby communities in the form of ecosystem services. Furthermore, these can all be initiated and achieved by individuals or communities. Some key landscape enhancements can be undertaken on a local level: the creation or expansion of small wooded areas, windbreaks, or hedgerows; the construction of small wetlands; and the release of some lands from heavy pressure for the reestablishment of natural ecological processes, namely, the natural accumulation of woody and other organic materials. Newly created ecosystems can be inoculated at the outset with soil biota such as seed banks, microbes, fungi, and organic material that can accelerate ecological functioning and balance. In addition to increasing much local and regional biodiversity, locally enhanced areas can provide fuel, plant and animal food and medicinal products, and agroforestry products directly to the nearby community. These small ecological oases can serve as nesting and overwintering sites for numerous pollinators that are hugely beneficial to agricultural production. Moreover, several ecosystem enhancements may contribute positively to local and regional hydrologic cycles and prevent prolonged droughts. Enhancements to local landscapes can take on many forms. We believe that any changes that increase structural complexity in natural systems almost certainly lead to increases in local biological complexity. In addition, wider landscape level considerations, such as corridors and connectivity of populations, can be integrated on a broader scale to improve regional biodiversity and ecosystem services. Small landscape enhancements undoubtedly cannot provide for all conservation needs, but they can greatly increase widespread biodiversity, restore local ecosystem services, and can be used to complement the relatively few larger parks.

Author(s): Morreale, SJ; Sullivan, KL

Journal: Frontiers of Earth Science

Year: 2010

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