Why is habitat restoration important for Miami and South Florida?
Habitat restoration by definition is an activity conducted to return a project site, to the maximum extent practicable, to the ecological condition that existed prior to the loss or degradation. At Knoll Landscape Design, we’re working toward teaching about and implementing environmentally sustainable design principles. We like to talk about landscapes, gardens, and natural areas with special attention to how our actions affect people, wildlife, and the existing habitat around us. To us, habitat restoration is a vital aspect of landscape design.
Our natural environment supplies us with everything we need and call home. We’re born into the world relying on our parents, social groups, and our physical environment to meet all our requirements to thrive and succeed. Observation of the natural world shows us as we mature that there is a cyclic, circular pattern to life, one of birth, growth, peak, decline, death, and recycling of energy to birth once more. In this, we are taught the borrowed nature, the “give and take” of life. And there’s a fantastic environmental/economic lesson to be learned from this, that of receiving in one hand and giving back with the other, allowing the natural cycle of life to flow unimpeded. But what does that have to do with habitat restoration?
In our modern industrial world, we’re used to seeing power and processing plants sprawling in dusty, barren terrains, huge condos and office buildings going up around us, fields disappearing to make way for new residential communities, endless acres of land tilled over and over again to be planted with crops that are sprayed with chemicals to survive to produce food for our tables, and so on. Looking around, it’s more than easy to see how we’re using our environment to meet our needs. We do it shamelessly and without question, and in many ways, that’s ok. It’s necessary that our environment meets our needs. We expect that, as we should. But is there more to the picture?
If we close our eyes and visualize the way things were before highways came through, buildings went up, forests were felled, and lands were tilled under, bulldozed, and destroyed, we can “see” a much different picture from what exists now. Imagine for a moment the relative stillness… only broken by a chirping bird, a buzzing bee, the wind rustling in the grass and the branches of trees. You can almost smell the wildflowers, the sweet scent of rich soil, and crisp fresh, oxygen-rich air. The land was ALIVE, in perfect homeostasis, created delicately by time and evolution to be it’s own version of “perfection”, host to countless beings, big and small, and every bit beautiful and useful in it’s own way. Opening our eyes, we see the difference of what exists now, which is quite a harsh reality.
Our industrial evolution is necessary, a healthy part of a our growth as a species. We have developed in so many ways because of it, increasing quality of life, health, education, international connections, and much else. Nature has stood quietly by as we’ve mined and bulldozed, poked and prodded, manipulated and sometimes destroyed her riches. Like a good parent, she has given us her best, trusting in the idea that when we are mature, we too will learn to be givers, to return the favor, to remember to compensate those whom we owe. She puts faith in our goodness, our wisdom, our innate understanding of the cyclic nature of life. As any good parent gives to their child freely, such a parent will also expect their child to give back when it is their turn to do so. At this stage in our technological advancement, our great scientific understanding, and our economic power, many industrial countries and peoples are beginning to see their collective impact on their environment, learn what good changes (like habitat restoration) need to be made to become environmentally sustainable, and start to set aside the means and develop the courage to act on that knowledge. We have taken for our growth. We have grown. Now we weigh the cost against the gain and reevaluate our position to guide our next step.
As we consider our next move toward habitat restoration, we need to be conscious of one very important cost which has been paid by our environment during our evolution. When habitat is lost to “progress”, flora and fauna often become endangered, and sometimes go completely extinct. Each time this happens, our planet loses a living treasure, a point of diversity, a link in the chain of life on earth. The billions and millions of years of development that resulted in that one glorious flower or butterfly are gone forever in one moment. We now have even greater problems approaching, like the bee crisis, plunges in the bat and bird populations, and a general loss in global biodiversity, directly linked to our behavior. There is no limit to reading up on these issues, and in doing so, it becomes obvious quickly the dangers of these problems AND our connection to them. This existing damage needs to be deeply acknowledged in moving forward.
Being thankful for what Mother Nature has given us and at the same time acknowledging the price which she has paid, what should be considered as we move forward? We see several things. The first is to truly assess the state of species of flora and fauna in our local area. Are there any protected or endangered species? If so, what can be done towards habitat restoration for these species? We can evaluate plants and features which can be replaced in order to restore homeostasis to our local area. The next step is to replant any areas possible with plants which are either native or at least noninvasive, those which provide habitat for local wildlife. Once restoration is complete, our third task is to be more conscious with future projects. Before we embark on building or renovation, mining, harvesting, or farming, we need to look into the future and ask what impact our actions will have. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We can never recreate lost biodiversity, but we CAN prevent future loss by acting consciously.
If you are considering a habitat restoration planting project and need more information or guidance, we are happy to help. We love to create designs which are mindful of their impact on our environment. A sustainable future will be built on a foundation of mindful decisions made by forward thinking individuals. Let us be part of your effort toward a healthy future. Check out our reviews on Houzz or just give Brent a call at 305.496.5155.
Also, if you are interested in ways to volunteer in our local community when it comes to habitat restoration and conservation, check out this link for opportunities. http://www.miamidade.gov/environment/natural-resources.asp