Photo by Shandchem via Flickr CC
Returning upturned ecosystems into healthy habitats is a focus for some conservationists looking at quarries in the UK. Here in the US, we've seen how it can work well when businesses and environmentalists unite - old strip mines being turned into bee habitat lush with native plants is one such example. And the same could happen with old quarries, thanks to a plan that would return the majority of quarries in England could be turned into wild areas like forests and wetlands that provide space for threatened species.The Telegraph reports that a plan called Nature After Minerals is spearheaded by by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Natural England. RSPB's director Mark Avery is optimistic that while damaging in the first place, quarries can end up being refuges for animal and plant species.
"The RSPB believes almost 56,000 hectares of active mineral sites in England alone would be suitable for restoring into one or more of 17 different habitats which the Government listed as priorities for conservation...There are some wonderful nature reserves up and down the country which have been created in former quarries, with wetlands for otters and wading birds, woodland for nightingales and woodpeckers, heathland for natterjack toads and grayling butterflies and much more besides."
Quarries, unlike coal mines, are not necessarily bad. The stone pulled from quarries go toward our buildings and roads. However, when a quarry has reached the end of its useful life, what then? Typically, restored habitats aren't as biologically diverse or hearty as untouched land. But even if that is the case, it is better to have recovering habitat available for species than no habitat at all. A lot of creative ideas abound for what to do with quarries, but returning it to the flora and fauna that inhabited it before we started digging is one of our favorites by far.