Can desert tracks ever be rehabilitated ?

The gravel plains of the central Namib are sensitive ecosystems that have been exposed to human disturbance since before the First World War. These disturbances have been increasing in intensity over the last few decades, mostly as a result of recreational off-road driving, exploration and prospecting activities.
The Namib Ecological Restoration and Monitoring Unit (NERMU) at Gobabeb Research Station convened a workshop on the rehabilitation of impact scars (vehicle tracks and laydown areas) in the Namib. In February, a number of scientists, environmental practitioners involved with arid landscape rehabilitation, representatives of film and mining companies and members of the Namibian Coastal Conservation and Management Project (NACOMA) got together at the Uranium Institute in Swakopmund.
More recently, increases in exploration drilling for uranium, mining and filming activities, mostly occurring in Protected Areas, have brought the issue of ecological rehabilitation of these surface scars into sharp focus. Initiatives such as the Strategic Environmental Assessment for the Uranium Rush and the draft Mine Closure Framework represented the first attempts at identifying this problem and at defining a framework for appropriate management.
Although many of the scars left by disturbances are probably permanent, it may be possible to rehabilitate the rest. A number of companies, using a variety of creative methods, have tried to rehabilitate the scars, usually with a view to re-create an aesthetically pleasing landscape with few visible signs of human disturbance. However, these attempts have seldom acknowledged the need to also consider the dynamics of the underlying gravel plain ecosystem.