Priorities and Motivations of Marine Coastal Restoration Research
Active restoration is becoming an increasingly important conservation intervention to counteract the degradation of marine coastal ecosystems. Understanding what has motivated the scientific community to research the restoration of marine coastal ecosystems and how restoration research projects are funded is essential if we want to scale-up restoration interventions to meaningful extents. Here, we systematically review and synthesize data to understand the motivations for research on the restoration of coral reefs, seagrass, mangroves, saltmarsh, and oyster reefs. We base this analysis off a published database of marine restoration studies, originally designed to estimate the cost and feasibility of marine coastal restoration, derived from mostly scientific studies published in peer-reviewed and some gray literature. For the present study, the database was updated with fields aimed at assessing the motivations, outcomes, and funding sources for each project. We classify restoration motivations into five categories: biotic, experimental, idealistic, legislative, and pragmatic. Moreover, we evaluate the variables measured and outcomes reported by the researchers and evaluate whether projects adhered to the Society for Ecological Restoration's (SER) standards for the practice of ecological restoration. The most common motivation of the scientific community to study restoration in marine coastal ecosystems was experimental i.e., to seek experimental data to answer ecological research questions or improve restoration approach, as expected since mostly peer-reviewed literature was evaluated here. There were differences in motivations among the five coastal ecosystems. For instance, biodiversity enhancement was the most common case for a biotic motivation in mangrove restoration projects. The most common metrics evaluated were growth/productivity, survivorship, habitat function, physical attributes, and reproduction. For most ecosystems, ecological outcomes were frequently reported, with socio-economic implications of the restoration rarely mentioned, except for mangroves. Projects were largely funded by governmental grants with some investment from private donations, non-governmental organizations, and the involvement of volunteers. Our findings and database provide critical data to align future research of the scientific community with the real social, economic and policy needs required to scale-up marine coastal restoration projects.