Ecosystem restoration is the process of intervening in an ecosystem to reestablish the mix of species, numbers and processes. The goal of this process is to copy ecosystems in a similar location that are known to be working well.
Three ways to do this are:
- to reintroduce native species where they are absent, and
- to remove species that are not naturally occurring populations, and
- to adjust ecological processes to occur at rates that are natural for the region.
Examples of the first approach include replacing wheat fields with native prairie grasses in Grasslands National Park or reintroducing a Species at Risk . As an example of the second approach, in an effort to assist in the recovery of the Garry oak ecosystems, Parks Canada has removed invasive species, such as English ivy, Scotch broom, gorse and daphne, at Fort Rodd Hill. The last approach is used frequently in Canada's National Parks to return a landscape to its characteristic pattern of fire or flood .
Individual park management plans identify issues/priorities and strategies.
There have been three major adjustments in how we manage parks in recent years:
- Recognition that park management should be focused more on ecosystems than on species;
- A shift from a hands-off approach to an active management approach.
The first is based on the belief that nature works best with all part working together. The second approach recognizes that it is often necessary to intervene in ecosystems to under the effects of activities in and around the park and maintain the values that our parks were created to protect.
- A move away from seeing national parks as stand-alone conservation spaces to seeing them as part of larger systems, including the role of humans, where influences from outside a park, both good and bad, must be addressed in park management.
Canada's National Parks Act calls for healthy ecosystems. Specifically, it says that the maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity shall be the first priority in park management. Where some of the park's ability to take care of itself is lost, restoration should be considered. Realistic goals and objectives can define the direction of ecosystem development. These changes must then be carefully monitored to ensure that ecological integrity continues to improve.