Introduction to Restoration
What is Habitat Restoration?

Estuaries are bodies of water formed along coasts when fresh water from rivers flows into and mixes with salt water from the ocean. These estuaries and the coastline surrounding them are among the most productive natural systems on earth. Decades of human population growth, waterway dredging, and various other human impacts have led to dramatic losses in many types of estuarine habitats including salt marshes, sea grass meadows, and coastal riaprian uplands. As a result, many plant and animal species living in these habitats are no longer supported. Recent environmental efforts involving habitat restoration have been launched by federal, state, and local levels in an attempt to reverse this pattern of habitat degradation and loss.

Habitat restoration is defined as assisting the recovery of an ecosystem to its historical function with respect to its health, integrity and sustainability. Many times, the habitat cannot be restored to its previous state due to the alterations that have been made to the ecosystem. Therefore, it is ideal to have a project plan and goal that integrates monitoring procedures in order to determine and evaluate the benefits of the restoration project.

While progress has been made, estuarine habitat loss continues at a much faster rate than it is being restored. For example, Louisiana's coastal estuaries have been called the richest and most productive ecosystem in the world. Between 1990 and 2000 Louisiana wetland loss was approximately 24 square miles per year, that is one football field lost every 38 minutes. The loss over the next 50 years, with current restoration efforts, is expected to be 500 square miles. That is equal to 10 square miles per year or one football field every 91 minutes - almost a 2.5 times improvement, but still a loss.

- Principles of Estuarine Habitat Restoration, Restore America's Estuaries and Estuarine Research Federation, 1999

- Barras, J.A., S. Beville, D. Britsch, S. Hartley, S. Hawes, J. Johnston, P. Kemp, Q. Kinler, A. Martucci, J. Porthouse, D. Reed, K. Roy, S. Sapkota, and J. Suhayda. 2003. Historical and projected coastal Louisiana land changes: 1978-2050: USGS Open File Report 03-334.

The Estuary Restoration Act

What types of habitats are found in the Gulf of Mexico region?