First Steps Towards Ecological Restoration

By Tim Wood, Sustainability Coordinator at The College School

The word biodiversity describes the variety of plant and animal life in a given environment. Greater biodiversity reflects the health of an ecosystem and its ability to endure challenges presented over time.

The state of Missouri is divided into four Eco regions and further divided into a wide variety of natural communities. Paul Nelson’s book, Terrestrial Natural Communities of Missouri, documents the variety of natural communities in great detail. Each of these communities is important to the fabric that makes up the ecology of our state.

Beyond the native plants that are a part of the state’s natural ecology, Missouri landscapes also contain a large number of invasive species that negatively impact biodiversity. An important first step in working towards preservation of our natural flora and fauna, is for residents to understand what makes up a given natural community and to be able to identify both native and invasive species. In addition to learning ‘what’ does or does not belong in a natural ecosystem, understanding the role each element plays in the larger picture can play a key role. Once we understand the importance of natural species, we can decide how to take action.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has created several tools to help in this effort, including guidance plant identification as well as procedures for invasive species removal.

For teachers, MDC’s Nature Unleashed materials can be used to help students to understand and appreciate natural communities.

Finding a piece of land that you care about and putting in the effort to restore and maintain its natural diversity is a logical place to start.

For landowners, it is critical to recognize that invasive species on your land do not solely remain there. They migrate to other spaces. By allowing dangerous species to grow on your site, you contribute to the decline of areas around you. In contrast, taking time to remove invasive species and plant native species is an important step forward.

Engaging public officials in the conversation surrounding invasive plant control is another critical step. A drive down any Interstate highway in the spring enables one to see that Honeysuckle is a dominant species along these transportation corridors. Asking our county and state officials to maintain the roadside in such a way that it does not become a seed bank for invasive species can have a positive impact.

There is a grassroots effort going on in many communities to increase biodiversity and restrict the spread of invasive species. Honeysuckle is one of a large number of invasive plants and animals that are reducing the quality of our natural communities. Making ourselves aware of what belongs here and what does not is a necessary step in restoring and maintaining the rich diversity that is natural to our state.

Contact the Missouri Department of Conservation for information that will help you protect the natural wonders of our state.

Please visit online at www.mdc.mo.gov.