Investigate the Restoration of Natural Resources

Curriculum Review, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Investigate the Restoration of Natural Resources


You can dive into a deep reservoir of free life science lesson plans and activities in the education section of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Service Web site, http://oceanservice.noaa.govleducation. Here's a sample lesson on repairing damaged natural resources that takes one or two class periods, plus time for student research. It can accommodate up to 40 students working in groups of two or three.

Fix It!

Links to overview essays and resources needed for student research: http:/loceanservice.noaa.gov/education /corals, http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/topics/coasts/ restoration, http://restoration.noaa.gov/ pdfs/restoring.pdf, http://www.photolib.noaa.gov /habrest, http://restoration.noaa.gov, http://www.nmfs. noaa.gov/habitat/restoration, http://photos.orr.noaa.gov

Focus question

How can resource managers and concerned public groups repair coastal resources damaged by human activity or natural events?

Learning objectives

* Students will be able to give al least three examples of natural events and human activities that injure coastal resources.

* Students will be able to describe at least three cases in which injured coastal resources have been restored by human activity.

* Students will be able to describe at least three ways that people have been able to contribute to coastal resource restoration.

Background information

Coastal resources are under constant threat from natural processes and human activities. News media regularly feature stories of damage to coral reefs, estuaries, fisheries and other resources caused by storms, ship groundings, oil spills, chemical releases and many other events. Modern coastal resource management includes using science and technology to protect and restore coastal resources affected by such events. These efforts can include removing pollutants and invasive species (species of plants or animals that are not native to the ecosystem and cause economic harm, environmental harm, or harm to human health), repairing damaged habitats, restoring natural ecosystem processes such as water flow and re-introducing native organisms. In addition, restoration projects often include monitoring activities to evaluate long-term success. Such projects have been implemented in marshes, forested wetlands, oyster reefs, seagrass beds, beaches, tidal streams and riparian forests. The results include improved habitats for fish, birds and other wildlife, protection against flooding, better water quality, enhanced recreational opportunities, and increased economic opportunities through activities such as commercial fisheries and tourism. The obvious first step for many restoration projects is to remove the cause of damage. In the case of resources damaged by pollution, the first step is to control the source of pollutants.

There are three basic options for dealing with pollutants that have already entered an ecosystem. The first option is to do nothing and allow natural processes to make the pollutants harmless (some naturally occurring bacteria, for example, are capable of breaking down or changing toxic substances into nontoxic molecules). The second option is to isolate pollutants from the rest of the ecosystem by covering them with soil or other material, or by treating the pollutants with chemicals that bind to the pollutants and prevent them from interacting with living organisms. The third option is to remove the pollutants from the ecosystem; a task that is often extremely expensive or impractical. In the case of damage caused by ship groundings, removing the cause of damage has the potential to cause even more damage than the initial event. When coastal resources have been damaged by changes the flow or circulation of a water body (such as changes caused by dams, canals or severe storm damage), these changes must be corrected before the desired natural systems can be re-established. …

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