Environmental restoration may be defined as the reestablishment of the general structure, function, and dynamic self-sustaining behavior of a disturbed ecosystem. Restoration efforts may be focused on rivers and streams, wetlands, forests, prairies, or combinations of valuable ecosystem habitats. The process may involve a wide variety of treatment measures to remove environmental stressors, reconstruct natural waterbodies, reintroduce native plants and animals, manage natural events such as fire, and prevent future harmful impacts.
The USDA and its associated land-grant universities are actively involved in research and education to support environmental restoration. Research and development of better methods for environmental restoration, as well as teaching and demonstrating the use of these technologies in both the classroom and field, are all basic strengths of the Land-Grant University system. The primary goal of extension/outreach education programs on pollution prevention is to reduce future environmental degradation.
Conditions in Your Watershed
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains a website that inventories river corridor and wetland restoration projects in your state.
Resources and Programs
Some examples of major resources and programs provided by Land Grant Universities in the Southern Region are listed below. For more information on a specific state, click on the links here or use the drop-down menu at the bottom of this page to jump to environmental restoration in your state.
Each of the Land Grant Universities in the Southern Region includes an Extension program designed to provide educational outreach into all counties of the state. Extension education interprets research results from colleges and universities and other sources throughout the world and delivers it to the end user, who is often a homeowner, business owner or agricultural producer. Some examples of major Extension education programs addressing environmental restoration in the Southern Region include:
- South Carolina: Clemson University is partnering with North Carolina State University to conduct a series of "hands-on" stream restoration workshops centered around an ongoing demonstration project funded by an EPA Section 319 grant at Clemson's Simpson Farm.
- New Mexico: The New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service works with private landowners to improve forest health conditions. Through educational publications, workshops, and on site evaluations, landowners receive information on how to better manage their forests and minimize environmental impacts. Aerial surveys are conducted each year over 1.5 million acres of State and private forestlands to locate insect and disease outbreaks.
- Alabama: Extension faculty at Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center are partnering with Sea Grant and several other organizations to host a series of stream restoration workshops.
- Oklahoma: Oklahoma State University uses four "Stream Hydrology Trailers" to provide fluvial geomorphology lessons "to go," raising awareness of common problems leading to deterioration of the streambanks and channels. Youth and adults audiences alike are intensely engaged by watching normal stream functioning and then degradation under the influence of bad management practices.
- Arkansas: University of Arkansas Extension faculty conduct the "Riparian Area Management and Crop Filter Strips" in-service training designed to provide professionals who work with landowners the latest information about recommended practices and financial assistance for managing the land-water interface. This two-day workshop is a networking opportunity for the numerous professionals who educate landowners and administer landowner programs in Arkansas.
Scientific research is the basis for development of new environmental restoration technology. Researchers at Land Grant Universities work to develop these new technologies and evaluate their benefits. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Current Research Information System (CRIS) provides access to reports on environmental restoration research supported by USDA and conducted at research centers or Land Grant Universities. Some examples of major research efforts in the Southern Region include:
- North Carolina: The North Carolina State University Stream Restoration Institute works to improve water quality and aquatic ecology through research, demonstration projects, and public education. Over 25 stream restoration projects are used to evaluate effective restoration techniques and teach professionals and landowners about watershed management.
- Georgia: University of Georgia scientists and engineers at the National Environmentally Sound Production Agriculture Laboratory are collaborating with researchers from the USDA-ARS Southeast Watershed Research Lab to investigate how restored riparian ecosystems affect water quality in agricultural watersheds. They are also developing computer models to simulate hydrologic performance, nutrient dynamics and plant growth in riparian areas. These studies will improve riparian buffer design, enhance riparian resources, and protect stream health and water quality.
- Texas: Researchers at the Texas Cooperative Extension Fort Stockton Center are examining the effect of eradicating saltcedar from the banks of the Pecos River. The five-year study will examine whether water flow is increased and salinity decreased in the river following removal of the nonnative saltcedar.
- Florida: University of Florida researchers are studying the influence of drainage and reflooding on phosphorus retention characteristics of soils in storm water treatment areas.
Additional Resources and Programs
Many additional resources are available for your use in determining degradation levels, restoration needs, and to help you target potential problem areas for environmental restoration efforts.
- EPA's Surf Your Watershed Program can help you locate water problem areas. This site also has links to state water quality data.
- EPA's EnviroMapper web site index provides access to information that can be used to locate potential problem areas for a number of pollutants on a watershed basis.
- The USDA has a detailed web site on stream corridor restoration.
- EPA's Office of Water, Oceans and Watersheds in association with its Office of Research and Development has an excellent web site on river corridor and wetland restoration.
- EPA's Watershed Academy and Interagency Watershed Training Cooperative provides a web-based training course on stream corridor restoration.
- EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response has a brownfields web site, which provides some information on how to prevent and restore these contaminated industrial sites to usable conditions. EPA has also established a web site on brownfield remediation technologies. EPA's Region 4 Office has established a brownfield initiative to assist in restoring these sites in the southeast.
- EPA has established a web site for locating technologies that can be used in cleaning up various contaminated media.
- The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management has a web site on environmental restoration.
- The U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement provides information on reclaiming abandoned mining areas.
- The U.S. Geological Survey provides information on restoration of stream water degraded by acid mine drainage.
- The MineNet web site provides links to many resources related to restoring acid water from mine drainage.
- The Environmental Professional's Homepage provides links to many resources designed to meet the needs of consultants and remediation professionals.
- The Society for Ecological Restoration is an international non-profit organization whose goal is to promote the repair of damaged ecosystems.
College and University Education
Degree programs and continuing adult education are critical to develop new talent and human resources to address the water quality issues of the future. Educational curricula in environmental restoration are available at Land Grant Colleges and Universities throughout the Southern Region. Some key examples include:
Hydrologic Sciences Academic Cluster
- North Carolina:
North Carolina State University Stream Restoration Institute
Biological and Agricultural Engineering Degree Program
- New Mexico:
Environmental Science Degree Program
Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Degree Program
Civil and Environmental Engineering Degree Program
Rangeland Ecology and Management Degree Program