Rebecca Swab (Wilds) Seminar- College of Public Health
Rebecca Swab, Ph.D
Director of Restoration Ecology, the Wilds
Natives in reclamation- creating prairie habitat on marginal landscapes
Surface mining for coal represents one of the most severe anthropogenic disturbances in the United States, and has affected nearly 1 million hectares of land. Required reclamation of these landscapes post-mining is minimal, and most are planted with invasive grasses and shrubs. The Wilds is a conservation, education, and research facility located on nearly 10,000 acres of reclaimed strip mine land. In unrestored grassland areas, the ecosystem appears to be stuck in ‘arrested succession’, indicating that restoration must be engineered and will not occur naturally. At the Wilds we have undertaken a number of restoration efforts to replace low diversity invasive ecosystems with high diversity prairies, forested areas, and wetlands. Overall, results on this landscape shows that engineering sustainable diverse ecosystems following mining requires more work and different methods than current reclamation laws require.