Addressing the issues related to reforestation can give way to lengthy conversations — how do you regrow natural habitats after they’ve been decimated? However, there is another delicate ecosystem destroyed by humans that is often forgotten about: mining areas. Fortunately, a group of scientist in Germany have discovered that leaving a damaged landscape to recover naturally might not be such a bad idea. Scientists have set up a tightly controlled, but mostly unaided research area in a former open coal pit located in Germany, and to their astonishment they’ve seen an entirely new ecosystem develop from virtually nothing. Just five years after the project started the site has begun blooming with its first trees.

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The idea to leave the coal pit to its own devices came about from a group of scientists Technische Universitat Muenchen (Technical University of Munich) that wanted to study how ecosystems form. When the project started in 2005 they covered the coal pit in a layer of clay and let an artificial water basin to form. They then stepped back and carefully observed the emergence of plants and tested the soil for seed and nutrient levels regularly.

Previously it was thought that in order to rehabilitate these areas a lot of careful human design was needed, such as fences around the area, layers and layers of soil and careful placed vegetation. When the projects first started, researchers anticipated to see the first sign of trees in 20 years, but it seems they underestimated nature. Just five years from the project’s launch they’ve been able to capture a lot of information about ecosystems and have been astounded by nature’s resilience.

The former open coal mine is located just south of Cottbus, Germany in an area called Huehnerwasser (“chicken creek”) — it was named for a river that used to run through site before the coal mine was created. This study gives a lot of hope to those of us that would like humans to stop interfering with nature. They experiment also proves that Mother Nature is a pretty superb designer all her own.

+ Technische Universitat Muenchen

Via Science Daily