Revegetation / renaturing

Department of Forestry tree nursery, Tagabe station, Port Vila, Vanuatu. Photo by SPREP. https://www.sprep.org/news/urban-forestry-project-commences-in-port-vila-vanuatu

Revegetation refers to the process of reintroducing or restoring vegetation to an area where it has been depleted or removed. This restoration effort aims to establish plant communities, often that are native to the region and are well-suited to the local environmental conditions. Revegetation projects may involve planting seeds, seedlings, or mature plants, as well as implementing techniques to promote their growth and establishment, such as soil preparation, irrigation, and weed control.

evegetation can occur in a wide range of locations and involve various types of vegetation on damaged land. This includes projects in wetlands, riparian areas, and coastal habitats, which are often impacted by urbanisation. It is also often undertaken in areas that have been disturbed by human activities such as mining, logging, agriculture, or construction as part of remediation efforts. 

Other nature-based solutions that may involve revegetation include:

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Name of NbS

Urban Beehives

Type of NbS

Engineered intervention

Location

  • Urban
  • Periurban
Te Kākahu Kahukura Banks Peninsular. Photo by: NZAIA https://www.nzaia.org.nz/markchristensen2020.html

Relationship to Indigenous knowledge

Revegetation efforts in Te Moananui Oceania often intersect with Indigenous knowledge systems, fostering a mutually beneficial relationship. Indigenous communities in Te Moananui Oceania possess deep ecological knowledge passed down through generations, including traditional plant species, cultivation techniques, and land management practices and rely on plants for food, medicine, fiber, fuel, gum, resin, aromatics, timber etc. (Abbott & Leakey, 2006).

Incorporating this local or Indigenous knowledge into revegetation projects not only enhances the ecological success of restoration efforts but also strengthens cultural connections to the land. Indigenous communities often play active roles in revegetation projects, sharing their expertise and guiding the selection of native plant species that are well-adapted to local conditions. 
Additionally, these collaborations promote respect for Indigenous perspectives on land stewardship and sustainability, fostering partnerships based on reciprocity and shared goals of ecosystem restoration and cultural revitalization. Revegetation initiatives that incorporate Indigenous knowledge and practices play a crucial role in preserving traditional land management techniques and restoring culturally significant plant species. This approach not only strengthens cultural connections to the land but also facilitates intergenerational knowledge transmission. Ultimately, this collaborative approach to revegetation contributes to the preservation of cultural heritage, the enhancement of biodiversity, and the promotion of holistic ecosystem health.

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Climate change benefits
  • Biomass covers loss
  • Changes to rainfall
  • Coastal erosion
  • Increased temperatures
  • Loss of food production
  • Wind damage
  • Soil erosion / landslide
  • Storm surge
  • Reduced air quality
  • Reduced soil quality
  • Reduced water quality
  • Urban heat island effect

Revegetation plays a vital role in both climate change adaptation and mitigation by enhancing ecosystem resilience and carbon sequestration. Revegetation helps to stabilise soils, reduce erosion, and improve water retention capacity, thereby mitigating the impacts of extreme weather events such as floods and droughts (Ziegler & Giambelluca, 1997). In areas where landslides are common, revegetation can stabilise land during extreme climatic events, reducing disaster risk and mitigating some effects of climate change (Fernandez-Montblanc et al., 2020).

Native plantings utilised in revegetation projects are well-adapted to local conditions, making them more resilient to changing environmental factors, including temperature fluctuations and altered rainfall patterns (Hobbs, 1993).In terms of climate change mitigation, revegetation contributes to carbon sequestration through the uptake of carbon dioxide by plants and the storage of carbon in biomass and soils (Norton et al., 2018). By enhancing vegetation cover and restoring ecosystem functions, revegetation projects facilitate the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, thus helping to mitigate climate change impacts. This is particularly significant in urban areas where revegetation can improve air quality, reduce the urban heat island effect, and enhance overall environmental quality (Norton et al., 2018). Overall, revegetation supports climate change adaptation by enhancing ecosystem resilience and contributes to mitigation efforts through carbon sequestration, thereby promoting the long-term sustainability of ecosystems and human communities (Case et al. 2023).

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Societal / socio-cultural benefits
  • Disaster risk reduction 
  • Waste management and sanitation
  • Food security
  • Water security

Revegetation plays a crucial role in disaster risk reduction by stabilising soils, reducing erosion, and mitigating the impacts of natural disasters such as floods. In terms of waste management and sanitation, revegetated areas help to filter pollutants and improve water quality, contributing to cleaner environments and healthier ecosystems. Furthermore, revegetation enhances food security by providing habitats for pollinators and supporting agricultural biodiversity, while also promoting water security through the restoration of riparian zones and wetlands, which regulate water flow and replenish groundwater sources.

Revegetation projects offer significant socio-cultural benefits by fostering community engagement, promoting cultural revitalisation, and enhancing quality of life. Revegetation in urban areas increases people’s exposure to biodiversity by reconnecting them with nature through the reintroduction of plants and birds and other species into the urban landscape (Archibald, 2017). These projects provide opportunities for local communities to actively participate in restoring and caring for their natural environments, fostering a sense of stewardship and connection to the land. Additionally, revegetated areas often become recreational spaces, allowing people to enjoy nature, engage in outdoor activities, and improve their physical and mental well-being.

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Ecological and biodiversity benefits
  • Habitat provision
  • medicinal resources
  • species maintenance

Revegetation is an umbrella term for multiple terms including habitat restoration, monocultural revegetation, species restoration and more. These terms are defined by plant species used and their benefits, either ecological, biodiversity, or economic benefits. Creating biodiverse revegetation allows for habitat provision and species maintenance due to having a selection of vegetation pests and diseases that are less likely to eliminate a whole area that has been revegetated (Vesk, P.A & Nally, R.M, 2006). Revegetating using medicinal plants in degraded landscapes is considered a hardy option. This is due to the stress that is created in such environments they are able to produce large amounts of metabolites. This helps them to alleviate stress and makes them capable of growing in degraded landscapes (Basak, B.B et.al, 2022). 
By reintroducing vegetation to these areas, revegetation efforts help to stabilize soil, prevent erosion, enhance water retention, restore wildlife habitat, and promote ecological resilience.  Overall, revegetation plays a vital role in restoring and enhancing the health and functionality of ecosystems, contributing to their long-term sustainability and biodiversity conservation.

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Technical requirements

Technical knowledge in botany, ecology, and environmental science is needed to design and implement effective revegetation plans that include an understanding of natural succession and how to establish plants in various settings. Collaboration with local communities, Indigenous groups, and stakeholders ensures the incorporation of traditional knowledge, further enhancing the success and longevity of revegetation projects.

Site assessment is crucial, involving soil testing where needed, hydrological analysis, and understanding local and future climates, existing vegetation, and biodiversity needs. This helps determine the appropriate plant species and restoration techniques. Selecting species that are well-adapted to the local environment is essential for promoting ecosystem resilience. Soil preparation may include amending the soil with organic matter or nutrients, as well as techniques to improve water retention and prevent erosion. Irrigation systems might be necessary, especially in the early stages, to ensure young plants establish successfully, though this may be unlikely in many areas of Te Moananui Oceania.

Weed control is also important, requiring methods such as mulching, manual removal, or other means to prevent competition with seedlings. Monitoring and maintenance are also vital, involving regular inspections, supplemental planting, and adaptive management to address any emerging issues.

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Issues and Barriers

Revegetation in Te Moananui Oceania faces several challenges. The region’s diverse and often harsh climatic conditions, including frequent droughts and extreme weather events, make it difficult to establish and maintain vegetation. Limited access to suitable plant materials and seeds, particularly native species, complicates restoration efforts. With large-scale revegetation demand for seedlings could outstrip supply in some areas (Mortlock & Warren, 2008). Additionally, invasive species pose a significant threat, outcompeting native plants and disrupting ecosystems.

Socio-economic factors also play a role, as many communities may lack the financial resources and technical expertise necessary for large-scale revegetation projects. Land tenure issues and conflicting land uses can further hinder efforts, as can limited community engagement and awareness about the benefits of revegetation. Lastly, political and institutional barriers, such as insufficient policies and support for environmental restoration, can impede

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Opportunities

The region’s rich biodiversity provides a unique chance to restore native habitats and enhance ecosystem resilience especially in degraded sites. By leveraging Indigenous knowledge and traditional land management practices, revegetation projects can incorporate culturally significant species and methods, fostering stronger connections between people and their environment.

The growing global emphasis on climate change mitigation and adaptation creates opportunities for international funding and support for revegetation efforts in Te Moananui Oceania. Carbon offset traders may be willing to support revegetation projects in the region.

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Financial case

The financial case for revegetation in Te Moananui Oceania is compelling, given its potential to yield significant long-term economic benefits. Restoring native vegetation can reduce costs associated with natural disasters by mitigating the impacts of flooding, erosion, and landslides, thereby decreasing the financial burden on governments and communities. Enhanced ecosystem services, such as improved water quality and soil health, support agriculture and fisheries, leading to increased productivity and food security.

Investing in revegetation also promotes eco-tourism, attracting visitors interested in the region’s unique natural landscapes and biodiversity, which can boost local economies. Additionally, projects that incorporate carbon sequestration contribute to climate change mitigation efforts, potentially unlocking funding opportunities from global carbon markets and climate finance initiatives.

Engaging local communities in revegetation efforts creates job opportunities and fosters skills development, contributing to social and economic resilience. Overall, the financial benefits of revegetation outweigh the initial investment, providing sustainable economic growth and environmental protection.

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Revegetation of Wangaloa coal mine, Kaitangata in Southeast Otago. Photo by University of Otago https://www.otago.ac.nz/geology/research/environmental-geology/mine-rehabilitation/revegetation-wangaloa
References
  • Abbott, I. A., & Leakey, R. R. (2006). Traditional trees of Pacific Islands: their culture, environment, and use. Par.
  • Archibald, C.L (2017) Assessing the impact of revegetation and weed control on urban sensitive bird species. Ecology and evolution, 7(12), 4200-4208.
  • Basak, B.B et.al (2022) Prospect of medicinal plant cultivation Fernandez-Montblanc, T et.al (2020) Dune reconstruction and revegetation as a potential measure to decrease coastal erosion and flooding under extreme storm conditions. Ocean & Coastal Management, 188, 105075.
  • Case, B. S., Forbes, A. S., Stanley, M. C., Hinchliffe, G., Norton, D. A., Suryaningrum, F., … & Buckley, H. L. (2023). Towards a framework for targeting national-scale, native revegetation in Aotearoa New Zealand’s agroecosystems. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 47(1), 1-15.
  • Fernandez-Montblanc et.al (2020) Dune reconstruction and revegetation as a potential measure to decrease coastal erosion and flooding under extreme storm conditions. Ocean & coastal management, 188, 105075.
  • Hobbs, R. J. (1994). Can revegetation assist in the conservation of biodiversity in agricultural areas?. Pacific Conservation Biology1(1), 29-38.
  • Mortlock, Warren (2008). Local seed for revegetation. Where will all that seed come from? Ecological management & restoration, 1 (2), 93-101
  • Norton, D. A., Butt, J., & Bergin, D. O. (2018). Upscaling restoration of native biodiversity: A New Zealand perspective. Ecological Management & Restoration19, 26-35.
  • Vesk, P.A & Nally, R.M (2006) Prospect of medicinal plant cultivation in marginal and degraded lands. Biotica research today, 4 (1), 003-006.
  • Ziegler, A. D., & Giambelluca, T. W. (1998). Influence of revegetation efforts on hydrologic response and erosion, Kaho’olawe Island, Hawai’i. Land Degradation & Development9(3), 189-206.

Further resources