The American landscape has undergone tremendous alteration and devastation; 90 percent or more of its prairies, wetlands, and virgin forests have been consumed by development. And now many parts of the developing world are feeling the bite of the chain saw and bulldozer. But in counterpoint to this depressing scenario, restoration ecology--the science of rehabilitating degraded ecosystems--is growing. The field is attracting many new scientists, more funding is becoming available, and a new journal devoted exclusively to the topic is forthcoming. It's a scientific endeavor that involves both applied and basic research, and, scientists say, it's one that is becoming essential to the continued survival of the planet.

Simply preserving wildlife habitat has not been and will not be enough to save the world from ecological disaster, says Joann Roskoski, ecology program director at the National Science Foundation. "Clearly, restoration is what has to happen when conservation hasn't worked," she...

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