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The Sky May Be Falling, But We Can Fix It

When it comes to environmental news, doom and gloom often rules the day. And it’s easy to get discouraged. But scientists from Yale University say most polluted ecosystems can recover in as little as 5 or 10 years.

The study means it’s not too late to turn things around if societies commit to cleanup, restoration and sustainability, according to Yale’s analysis of 240 independent studies. The findings appear in this month’s issue of the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE.

Researchers from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies found that forests took 42 years on average to recover, ocean bottoms recovered in less than 10 years and ecosystems affected by stresses like invasive species bounced back in as little as five years. Human-induced disturbances took longer to shake off than natural events.

“The damages to these ecosystems are pretty serious,” Oswald Schmitz, a co-author, said in a statement from Yale.

“But the message is that if societies choose to become sustainable, ecosystems will recover. It isn’t hopeless.”

This analysis is pretty timely, with a recent proposal by the Obama administration to spend $475 million to help restore the Great Lakes, and the recent appointment of Cameron Davis, leader of an advocacy group called the Alliance for the Great Lakes, as the person to carry out the project.

(Image credit: tEdGuY49 via Flickr.)


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is typing about issues in the Great Lakes, from advanced biofuels to zero-emission vehicles. Jeff is an environmental journalist and social media evangelist based in Michigan, where the summers are short, the winters are cold, and the stories are plentiful.

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