Unsustainable use of natural resources has degraded natural environments and threatened plant diversity worldwide. In response to this crisis, the Missouri Botanical Garden is working to advance the cause of Ecological Restoration, defined by the Society for Ecological Restoration as “the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.” The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, a catalyst to halt the global loss of biodiversity that is spearheaded by the Garden’s president, Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, calls for the restoration of native plant communities along with the comprehensive seed banking efforts necessary to provide seed for these efforts. Botanic Gardens Conservation International recently formed the Ecological Restoration Alliance, an international alliance of prominent botanical gardens, including the Missouri Botanical Garden, that are collaborating to restore 100 damaged, degraded, or destroyed ecosystems across six continents.

At its Shaw Nature Reserve, the Garden has been working for decades to restore the ecological diversity characteristic of the St. Louis region. Today, the beauty and diversity of the Nature Reserve’s restored prairies, glades, wetlands, and woodlands exemplify Missouri’s biological heritage. Restoration at the Shaw Nature Reserve continues through activities such as prescribed burning and control of invasive species. The Garden’s Litzsinger Road Ecology Center is working to restore prairies, woodlands, and streams that provide students the opportunity to experience habitats which dominated this region prior to the modern settlement of St. Louis. 

Scientists with the Garden’s Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development (CCSD) are engaged in conserving and restoring some of the most imperiled plants and habitats of the Midwestern and Southeastern United States. Rare plant conservation efforts are often hindered by degraded habitats, invasive species, and the absence of natural processes such as fire that are needed to support viable populations. Before initiating restoration of critical habitats, CCSD scientists conduct rigorous research to identify optimal targets for habitat restoration and assess the benefits of restoration practices for rare plant species. The Garden’s horticultural division supports ecological restoration through the propagation of plants for restoration projects.

Over the past decade, Garden scientists in Madagascar have collaborated with local communities to restore native forest throughout this remarkably diverse island nation. The botanical expertise of Garden scientists has been essential for documenting the diversity of native forests and thus providing a reference for restoration efforts. Collaboration with local communities to plant trees and protect forests from destructive activities has helped to improve livelihoods, further reducing pressure on the forest and accelerating the restoration process.

Explore international restoration efforts with Garden research associate Leighton Reid and guests on our ecological restoration blog.

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