A novel, or emerging ecosystem, is one without an analog in the natural environment that develops in response to radically altered environmental conditions caused by social, economic, or cultural activities. Novel ecosystems include those with urban soil contaminated by storm water runoff; systems with altered ground and surface water flows; or systems with soil disturbed by ditching, dredging, or drainage
The woodland pictured here is a typical novel ecosystem. The site has, for decades, been subjected to all the disturbances listed, and more; it also has a significant component of herbaceous pest species like garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis), and Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum or Fallopia japonica). Few of the original native wetland and sedge meadow species grow on the site. The historic and modern-day disturbances like storm water runoff continue.
Planning Restoration for a Novel Ecosystem
Let’s start with some questions: Where does the restoration ecologist start with a site like this? What are practical goals? Can the altered hydrology be restored? What can one do about the dried and disturbed peaty soils?
Is the top priority the eradication of pest species? Does the restoration learn to live with some of the pest species? If the pest species are removed, what will replace them? Will this site support a restored system based upon historic models? Or, will restoration of this novel ecosystem require novel approaches and ecosystem models?
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