Regeneration (ecology)

Last updated

Regeneration is the ability for a cell, tissue, or organism to recover from damage. It can also be used to describe the ability of an ecosystem  specifically, the environment and its living population  to renew and recover from damage.

Contents

Regeneration refers to ecosystems replenishing what is being eaten, disturbed, or harvested. Regeneration's biggest force is photosynthesis which transforms sun energy and nutrients into plant biomass. Resilience to minor disturbances is one characteristic feature of healthy ecosystems. Following major (lethal) disturbances, such as a fire or pest outbreak in a forest, an immediate return to the previous dynamic equilibrium will not be possible. Instead, pioneering species will occupy, compete for space, and establish themselves in the newly opened habitat. The new growth of seedlings and community assembly process is known as regeneration in ecology. [1] [2] As ecological succession sets in, a forest will slowly regenerate towards its former state within the succession (climax or any intermediate stage), provided that all outer parameters (climate, soil fertility availability of nutrients, animal migration paths, air pollution or the absence thereof, etc.) remain unchanged.

In certain regions like Australia, natural wildfire is a necessary condition for a cyclically stable ecosystem with cyclic regeneration.

Artificial disturbances

While natural disturbances are usually fully compensated by the rules of ecological succession, human interference can significantly alter the regenerative homeostatic faculties of an ecosystem up to a degree that self-healing will not be possible. For regeneration to occur, active restoration must be attempted.

See also

Related Research Articles

Ecosystem Community of living organisms together with the nonliving components of their environment

An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the system through photosynthesis and is incorporated into plant tissue. By feeding on plants and on one another, animals play an important role in the movement of matter and energy through the system. They also influence the quantity of plant and microbial biomass present. By breaking down dead organic matter, decomposers release carbon back to the atmosphere and facilitate nutrient cycling by converting nutrients stored in dead biomass back to a form that can be readily used by plants and other microbes.

Wetland Land area that is permanently or seasonally saturated with water

A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil. Wetlands play a number of functions, including water purification, water storage, processing of carbon and other nutrients, stabilization of shorelines, and support of plants and animals. Wetlands are also considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal life. Whether any individual wetland performs these functions, and the degree to which it performs them, depends on characteristics of that wetland and the lands and waters near it. Methods for rapidly assessing these functions, wetland ecological health, and general wetland condition have been developed in many regions and have contributed to wetland conservation partly by raising public awareness of the functions and the ecosystem services some wetlands provide.

Ecological succession The process of change in the species structure of an ecological community over time

Ecological succession is the process of change in the species structure of an ecological community over time. The time scale can be decades, or even millions of years after a mass extinction.

Bush regeneration, a form of natural area restoration, is the term used in Australia for the ecological restoration of remnant vegetation areas, such as through the minimisation of negative disturbances, both exogenous such as exotic weeds and endogenous such as erosion. It may also attempt to recreate conditions of pre-European arrival, for example by simulating endogenous disturbances such as fire. Bush regeneration attempts to protect and enhance the floral biodiversity in an area by providing conditions conducive to the recruitment and survival of native plants.

Secondary forest

A secondary forest is a forest or woodland area which has re-grown after a timber harvest, until a long enough period has passed so that the effects of the disturbance are no longer evident. It is distinguished from an old-growth forest, which has not recently undergone such disruption, and complex early seral forest, as well as third-growth forests that result from harvest in second growth forests. Secondary forest regrowing after timber harvest differs from forest regrowing after natural disturbances such as fire, insect infestation, or windthrow because the dead trees remain to provide nutrients, structure, and water retention after natural disturbances. However, often after natural disturbance the timber is harvested and removed from the system, in which case the system more closely resembles secondary forest rather than complex early seral forest.

Ecosystem ecology The study of living and non-living components of ecosystems and their interactions

Ecosystem ecology is the integrated study of living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components of ecosystems and their interactions within an ecosystem framework. This science examines how ecosystems work and relates this to their components such as chemicals, bedrock, soil, plants, and animals.

Restoration ecology Scientific study of renewing and restoring ecosystems

Restoration ecology is the scientific study supporting the practice of ecological restoration, which is the practice of renewing and restoring degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems and habitats in the environment by active human intervention and action. Effective restoration requires an explicit goal or policy, preferably an unambiguous one that is articulated, accepted, and codified. Restoration goals reflect societal choices from among competing policy priorities, but extracting such goals is typically contentious and politically challenging.

Forest dynamics

Forest dynamics describes the underlying physical and biological forces that shape and change a forest ecosystem. The continuous state of change in forests can be summarized with two basic elements: disturbance and succession.

Historical ecology

Historical ecology is a research program that focuses on the interactions between humans and their environment over long-term periods of time, typically over the course of centuries. In order to carry out this work, historical ecologists synthesize long-series data collected by practitioners in diverse fields. Rather than concentrating on one specific event, historical ecology aims to study and understand this interaction across both time and space in order to gain a full understanding of its cumulative effects. Through this interplay, humans adapt to and shape the environment, continuously contributing to landscape transformation. Historical ecologists recognize that humans have had world-wide influences, impact landscape in dissimilar ways which increase or decrease species diversity, and that a holistic perspective is critical to be able to understand that system.

Fire ecology

Fire ecology is a scientific discipline concerned with natural processes involving fire in an ecosystem and the ecological effects, the interactions between fire and the abiotic and biotic components of an ecosystem, and the role as an ecosystem process. Many ecosystems, particularly prairie, savanna, chaparral and coniferous forests, have evolved with fire as an essential contributor to habitat vitality and renewal. Many plant species in fire-affected environments require fire to germinate, establish, or to reproduce. Wildfire suppression not only eliminates these species, but also the animals that depend upon them.

Forest ecology The study of interactions between the biota and environment in forets

Forest ecology is the scientific study of the interrelated patterns, processes, flora, fauna and ecosystems in forests. The management of forests is known as forestry, silviculture, and forest management. A forest ecosystem is a natural woodland unit consisting of all plants, animals and micro-organisms in that area functioning together with all of the non-living physical (abiotic) factors of the environment. The forest ecosystem is very important.

Secondary succession

Secondary succession is one of the two types ecological succession of a plant's life. As opposed to the first, primary succession, secondary succession is a process started by an event that reduces an already established ecosystem to a smaller population of species, and as such secondary succession occurs on preexisting soil whereas primary succession usually occurs in a place lacking soil. Many factors can affect secondary succession, such as trophic interaction, initial composition, and competition-colonization trade-offs. The factors that control the increase in abundance of a species during succession may be determined mainly by seed production and dispersal, micro climate; landscape structure ; bulk density, pH, and soil texture.

Disturbance (ecology)

In ecology, a disturbance is a temporary change in environmental conditions that causes a pronounced change in an ecosystem. Disturbances often act quickly and with great effect, to alter the physical structure or arrangement of biotic and abiotic elements. A disturbance can also occur over a long period of time and can impact the biodiversity within an ecosystem.

Salvage logging is the practice of logging trees in forest areas that have been damaged by wildfire, flood, severe wind, disease, insect infestation, or other natural disturbance in order to recover economic value that would otherwise be lost.

Ecological resilience Capacity of ecosystems to resist and recover from change

In ecology, resilience is the capacity of an ecosystem to respond to a perturbation or disturbance by resisting damage and recovering quickly. Such perturbations and disturbances can include stochastic events such as fires, flooding, windstorms, insect population explosions, and human activities such as deforestation, fracking of the ground for oil extraction, pesticide sprayed in soil, and the introduction of exotic plant or animal species. Disturbances of sufficient magnitude or duration can profoundly affect an ecosystem and may force an ecosystem to reach a threshold beyond which a different regime of processes and structures predominates. When such thresholds are associated with a critical or bifurcation point, these regime shifts may also be referred to as critical transitions.

Assisted natural regeneration

Assisted natural regeneration (ANR) is the human protection and preservation of natural tree seedlings in forested areas. Seedlings are, in particular, protected from undergrowth and extremely flammable plants such as Imperata grass. Though there is no formal definition or methodology, the overall goal of ANR is to create and improve forest productivity. It typically involves the reduction or removal of barriers to natural regeneration such as soil degradation, competition with weeds, grasses or other vegetation, and protection against disturbances, which can all interfere with growth. In addition to protection efforts, new trees are planted when needed or wanted. With ANR, forests grow faster than they would naturally, resulting in a significant contribution to carbon sequestration efforts. It also serves as a cheaper alternative to reforestation due to decreased nursery needs.

Climax species

Climax species, also called late seral, late-successional, K-selected or equilibrium species, are plant species that can germinate and grow with limited resources, like they need heat exposure or low water availability. They are the species within forest succession that are more adapted to stable and predictable environments, and will remain essentially unchanged in terms of species composition for as long as a site remains undisturbed.

Riparian-zone restoration Ecological restoration of river banks and floodplains

Riparian-zone restoration is the ecological restoration of riparian-zonehabitats of streams, rivers, springs, lakes, floodplains, and other hydrologic ecologies. A riparian zone or riparian area is the interface between land and a river or stream. Riparian is also the proper nomenclature for one of the fifteen terrestrial biomes of the earth; the habitats of plant and animal communities along the margins and river banks are called riparian vegetation, characterized by Aquatic plants and animals that favor them. Riparian zones are significant in ecology, environmental management, and civil engineering because of their role in soil conservation, their habitat biodiversity, and the influence they have on fauna and aquatic ecosystems, including grassland, woodland, wetland or sub-surface features such as water tables. In some regions the terms riparian woodland, riparian forest, riparian buffer zone, or riparian strip are used to characterize a riparian zone.

Forest restoration

Forest restoration is defined as “actions to re-instate ecological processes, which accelerate recovery of forest structure, ecological functioning and biodiversity levels towards those typical of climax forest” i.e. the end-stage of natural forest succession. Climax forests are relatively stable ecosystems that have developed the maximum biomass, structural complexity and species diversity that are possible within the limits imposed by climate and soil and without continued disturbance from humans. Climax forest is therefore the target ecosystem, which defines the ultimate aim of forest restoration. Since climate is a major factor that determines climax forest composition, global climate change may result in changing restoration aims.

Gap dynamics

Gap dynamics refers to the pattern of plant growth that occurs following the creation of a forest gap, a local area of natural disturbance that results in an opening in the canopy of a forest. Gap dynamics are a typical characteristic of both temperate and tropical forests and have a wide variety of causes and effects on forest life.

References

  1. Dietze, M. C.; Clark, J. S. (2008). "Changing the gap dynamics paradigm: Vegetative regenerative control on forest response to disturbance" (PDF). Ecological Monographs. 78 (3): 331–347. doi:10.1890/07-0271.1.
  2. Bailey, J. D.; Covington, W. W. (2002). "Evaluation ponderosa pine regeneration rates following ecological restoration treatments in northern Arizona, USA" (PDF). Forest Ecology and Management. 155 (1–3): 271–278. doi:10.1016/S0378-1127(01)00564-3.

Literature