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Restoration of drylands essential for survival

Many drylands are degraded, and a new study suggests that the restoration of these arid ecosystems is necessary to mitigate climate change. The research is part of the Global Arid Zone Project and examined restoration outcomes at 174 sites on six continents. 

Dr. Martin Breed of Flinders University was one of three Australian scientists involved in the project. He emphasized the importance of the research to his country.

Much of Australia is drylands and huge areas of these drylands in Australia are degraded. They have been cleared, unsustainably farmed, burnt in megafires and generally not taken good care of,” said Dr. Breed.  

“Accordingly, vast areas of our drylands are now being restored to help return biodiversity and supply many important ecosystem services, such as clean air and water, supporting our good mental health and increasing agricultural productivity.”

“This restoration usually requires revegetation, primarily via re-seeding areas. The scale of this re-seeding effort globally is truly enormous, encouraged no less by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration that started this year. The annual budgets involved are in the 10s to 100s billions of dollars.”

The new study brings together a wealth of information on the realities of reseeding – this strategy is generally effective, but can be a lot of work. Across the sites examined for the study, the researchers found that 20 percent of seedlings and 17 percent of restoration projects failed.

These are somewhat discouraging numbers for reseeding efforts with overly ambitious goals. However, the scientists point out that their research gives new dryland restoration efforts a better chance. 

The point of the research is to show what parameters must be met for success of dryland restoration to happen. This may be important not only for dry areas and those who live in them, but for the world to meet climate change goals.    

The study is published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer


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