Restoration of habitats

Sand dune restoration

Around urban cities, many areas of wetlands are seriously degraded and much activity is done to attempt to restore or rehabilitate them. Yet there is no sensible theory or understanding of how to create habitat that develops ecological function and maintains natural biodiversity.

Deterioration of coastal marine and estuarine habitats is inevitable in areas where human development is active. This is particularly the case in New South Wales (and throughout Australia) where a very large proportion of the population live on the edges of the coast-line. Until there is much better understanding of the ecological processes sustaining patterns of distribution and abundance of species in the diverse assemblages in our coastal habitats, there will not be better management for sustainable development. Even when such knowledge is more readily available (the time-table for which is entirely dependent on society committing adequate resources to the necessary research), there will still be loss, fragmentation and degradation of habitats.

To sustain biodiversity and to maintain ecological processes and functions (for its own sake or for anthropocentric, human reasons), it will be necessary, for a very long time, to recreate, rebuild or repair habitats. The science of restoration of coastal habitats is virtually unknown and many projects about restoration or other uses of habitat deliberately exclude better understanding. To develop better means of defining goals, assessing methods and achieving desired outcomes in restoration of wetlands and other habitats, the Centre's research includes experimental projects on restoration in collaboration with councils and other bodies. We are also developing the logical and analytical structure for planning and understanding programmes of restoration. Finally, we are also using experimentally created habitats to develop procedures for managing conservation of coastal biota in response to changes in sea-level associated with global warming.

The Centre has three major research fronts in this field: to develop appropriate theory and protocols to assess the validity of theory; to do experiments at the scale of real projects ( so at the scale of whole wetlands) and to do work on development of better habitat in response to built structures such as sea-walls and as a precautionary measure to offset changes due to rises in sea-level associated with global warming.

The projects in this programme have been centred around habitats, rather than processes.