As habitat mapping is crucially important for developing effective management and restoration plans, the aim of this work was to produce a census of available map resources at the European scale focusing on: a) key marine habitats; b) degraded habitats; c) human activities and pressures acting on degraded habitats, and d) the restoration potential of degraded habitats. Almost half of the 580 map records were derived from grey literature and web resources but contained no georeferenced files for download, thus limiting further use of the data. Biogeographical heterogeneity was observed and varied between the type and quality of information provided. This variability was mainly related to differences in research efforts and stakeholder focus. Habitat degradation was assessed in only 28% of the map records and was mostly carried out in a qualitative manner. Less than half of the map records included assessments on the recovery/restoration potential of the degraded habitats, with passive restoration by removal of human activities being the most commonly recommended measure. The current work has identified several gaps and challenges both in the thematic and geographic coverage of the available map resources, as well as in the approaches implemented for the harmonized assessment of habitat degradation. These should guide future mapping initiatives in order to more comprehensively support and advise the marine habitat restoration agenda for better meeting the objectives set in relevant policy documents and legislative acts in Europe.
Coral reef restoration is an increasingly important part of tropical marine conservation. Information about what motivates coral reef restoration as well as its success and cost is not well understood but needed to inform restoration decisions. We systematically review and synthesise data from mostly scientific studies published in peer‐reviewed and grey literature on the motivations for coral reef restoration, the variables measured, outcomes reported, the cost per hectare of the restoration project, the survival of restored corals, the duration of the project and its overall spatial extent depending on the restoration technique employed. The main motivation to restore coral reefs for the projects assessed was to further our ecological knowledge and improve restoration techniques, with coral growth, productivity and survival being the main variables measured. The median project cost was 400,000 US$ ha‐1 (2010 US$), ranging from 6,000 US$ ha‐1 for the nursery phase of coral gardening to 4,000,000 US$ ha‐1 for substrate addition to build an artificial reef. Restoration projects were mostly of short duration (1‐2 years) and over small spatial extents (0.01 ha or 108 m2). Median reported survival of restored corals was 60.9%. Future research to survey practitioners who do not publish their discoveries would complement this work. Our findings and database provide critical data to inform future research in coral reef restoration.
The severely degraded condition of many coral reefs worldwide calls for active interventions to rehabilitate their physical and biological structure and function, in addition to effective management of fisheries and no‐take reserves. Rehabilitation efforts to stabilize reef substratum sufficiently to support coral growth have been limited in size. We documented a large coral reef rehabilitation in Indonesia aiming to restore ecosystem functions by increasing live coral cover on a reef severely damaged by blast fishing and coral mining. The project deployed small, modular, open structures to stabilize rubble and to support transplanted coral fragments. Between 2013 to 2015, approximately 11,000 structures covering 7,000 m2 were deployed over 2 ha of a reef at a cost of US$174,000. Live coral cover on the structures increased from less than 10% initially to greater than 60% depending on depth, deployment date and location, and disturbances. The mean live coral cover in the rehabilitation area in October 2017 was higher than reported for reefs in many other areas in the Coral Triangle, including marine protected areas, but lower than in the no‐take reference reef. At least 42 coral species were observed growing on the structures. Surprisingly, during the massive coral bleaching in other regions during the 2014–2016 El Niño–Southern Oscillation event, bleaching in the rehabilitation area was less than 5% cover despite warm water (≥30°C). This project demonstrates that coral rehabilitation is achievable over large scales where coral reefs have been severely damaged and are under continuous anthropogenic disturbances in warming waters.
There is a growing interest in how the management of ‘blue carbon’ sequestered by coastal wetlands can influence global greenhouse gas (GHG) budgets. A promising intervention is through restoring tidal exchange to impounded coastal wetlands for reduced methane (CH4) emissions. We monitored an impounded wetland’s GHG flux (CO2 and CH4) prior to and following tidal reinstatement. We found that biogeochemical responses varied across an elevation gradient. The low elevation zone experienced a greater increase in water level and an associated greater marine transition in the sediment microbial community (16 S rRNA) than the high elevation zone. The low elevation zone’s GHG emissions had a reduced sustained global warming potential of 264 g m−2 yr−1 CO2-e over 100 years, and it increased to 351 g m−2 yr−1 with the removal of extreme rain events. However, emission benefits were achieved through a reduction in CO2 emissions, not CH4emissions. Overall, the wetland shifted from a prior CH4 sink (−0.07 to −1.74 g C m−2 yr−1) to a variable sink or source depending on the elevation site and rainfall. This highlights the need to consider a wetland’s initial GHG emissions, elevation and future rainfall trends when assessing the efficacy of tidal reinstatement for GHG emission control.
Coral reefs face an uncertain future and may not recover naturally from anthropogenic climate change. Coral restoration is needed to rehabilitate degraded reefs and to sustain biodiversity. There is a need for baseline data on global reef distribution, composition, and condition to provide targets for conservation and restoration. Remote sensing can address this issue and is currently underutilized in reef research and restoration. This synthesis integrates current capabilities of remote sensing with key reef restoration criteria, to facilitate coral restoration success. Research into the development of a spectral database for corals, linking habitat type and extent with predator abundance, and identification of species-specific acoustic signatures are needed to advance the use of remote sensing in reef restoration design and monitoring. Reciprocally, reef restoration efforts should innovate at ecosystem, regional, and global levels using remote sensing, to preserve as much of the coral reef biome as possible with continued ocean-climate change.
Some of the major challenges in seagrass restoration on exposed open coasts are the choice of transplant design that is optimal for coastlines periodically exposed to high water motion, and understanding the survival and dynamics of the transplanted areas on a long time-scale over many years. To contribute to a better understanding of these challenges, we describe here part of a large-scale seagrass restoration program conducted in a Marine Park in Portugal. The goal of this study was to infer if it was possible to recover seagrass habitat in this region, in order to restore its ecosystem functions. To infer which methods would produce better long term persistence to recover seagrass habitat, three factors were assessed: donor seagrass species, transplant season, source location. Monitoring was done three times a year for 8 years, in which areas and densities of the planted units were measured, to assess survival and growth. The best results were obtained with the species Zostera marina transplanted during spring and summer as compared to Zostera noltii and Cymodocea nodosa. Long-term persistence of established (well rooted) transplants was mainly affected by extreme winter storms but there was evidence of fish grazing effects also. Our results indicate that persistence assessments should be done in the long term, as all transplants were successful (survived and grew initially) in the short term, but were not resistant in the long term after a winter with exceptionally strong storms. The interesting observation that only the largest (11 m2) transplanted plot of Z. marina persisted over a long time, increasing to 103 m2 in 8 years, overcoming storms and grazing, raised the hypothesis that for a successful shift to a vegetated state it might be necessary to overpass a minimum critical size or tipping point. This hypothesis was therefore tested with replicates from two donor populations and results showed effects of size and donor population, as only the larger planting units (PUs) from one donor population persisted and expanded. It is recommended that in future habitat restoration efforts large PUs are considered.
Barrier island lagoons are the most common type of estuary in the world and can be prone to eutrophication as well as the formation and closure of ocean inlets via severe storm activity. This study describes the biological, chemical, and physical changes that occurred along the south shore of Long Island, NY, USA, following the formation of a new ocean inlet in eastern Great South Bay (GSB) by Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012. Time series sampling and experiments were performed at multiple locations within GSB and neighboring Moriches Bay from 2013 through to 2018. Historical comparisons to prior water quality monitoring data, fecal coliform concentrations, and hard clam growth rates were also made. Measurements indicated that the New Inlet provided asymmetrical ocean flushing. Within locations north (Bellport Bay) and/or east (Narrow Bay, western Moriches Bay) of the New Inlet, water residence times, summer water temperatures, total and dissolved nitrogen, chlorophyll a, the harmful brown tide alga, Aureococcus anophagefferens, pigments associated with diatoms and dinoflagellates (fucoxanthin and peridinin), and fecal coliform bacteria levels all significantly decreased, while salinity, dissolved oxygen, and water clarity significantly increased. In contrast, waters west of the New Inlet within the center of GSB experienced little change in residence times, significant increases in chlorophyll a and harmful brown tides caused by A. anophagefferens, as well as a significant decrease in water clarity and summer dissolved oxygen levels. Growth rates of juvenile hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria) near the New Inlet increased compared to before the inlet and were significantly higher than in central GSB, where growth rates significantly declined compared to before the inlet. Hence, while enhanced ocean flushing provided a series of key ecosystem benefits for regions near the New Inlet, regions further afield experienced more frequent HABs and poorer performance of bivalves, demonstrating that enhanced ocean flushing provided by the breach was not adequate to fully restore the whole GSB ecosystem.
Coastal wetlands are a significant carbon (C) sink since they store carbon in anoxic soils. This ecosystem service is impacted by hydrologic alteration and management of these coastal habitats. Efforts to restore tidal flow to former salt marshes have increased in recent decades and are generally associated with alteration of water inundation levels and salinity. This study examined the effect of water level and salinity changes on soil organic matter decomposition during a 60‐day incubation period. Intact soil cores from impounded fresh water marsh and salt marsh were incubated after addition of either sea water or fresh water under flooded and drained water levels. Elevating fresh water marsh salinity to 6 to 9 ppt enhanced CO2 emission by 50%−80% and most typically decreased CH4 emissions, whereas, decreasing the salinity from 26 ppt to 19 ppt in salt marsh soils had no effect on CO2 or CH4 fluxes. The effect from altering water levels was more pronounced with drained soil cores emitting ~10‐fold more CO2 than the flooded treatment in both marsh sediments. Draining soil cores also increased dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations. Stable carbon isotope analysis of CO2 generated during the incubations of fresh water marsh cores in drained soils demonstrates that relict peat OC that accumulated when the marsh was saline was preferentially oxidized when sea water was introduced. This study suggests that restoration of tidal flow that raises the water level from drained conditions would decrease aerobic decomposition and enhance C sequestration. It is also possible that the restoration would increase soil C decomposition of deeper deposits by anaerobic oxidation, however this impact would be minimal compared to lower emissions expected due to the return of flooding conditions.
The restoration and protection of “blue carbon” ecosystems – mangroves, seagrasses, and tidal marshes – has potential to offset greenhouse gas emissions and improve coastal livelihoods. However, realisation of this potential relies on global investment in restoration and protection, which in turn relies on appropriate funding mechanisms that are currently impeded by multiple constraints. Constraints include commercial considerations by private investors (including reliable estimates of financial returns, risk quantification and management, and supply chain impacts), regulatory and legal uncertainty (such as the complexity of property rights in coastal areas, policy coordination across jurisdictions, and stable policy consistent with the duration of blue carbon projects). There are, however, opportunities to improve on current practices, including better stakeholder engagement (including social license to operate, and knowledge transfer to promote best practices), and targeted use of public and philanthropic funding (to subsidise demonstration projects, reduce financial risk through collaterals, and promote low-profit but high co-benefit projects). In this paper, a strategy for the realisation of potential benefits through commercially viable and scientifically robust blue carbon initiatives is presented alongside insights and guidance for the policy, research, civil society, and private sectors to achieve these important long-term outcomes.
Marine ecosystems of temperate regions are highly modified by human activity and far from their original natural status. The North Sea, known as an intensively used area, has lost its offshore oyster grounds due to overexploitation in a relatively short time. Native oyster beds as a once abundant and ecologically highly important biogenic reef-type have vanished from the North Sea ecosystem in most areas of both their former distribution and magnitude. Worldwide, oyster stocks have been severely exploited over the past centuries. According to estimates, about 85% of the worldwide oyster reef habitats have been destroyed over the course of the last century. This loss of oyster populations has meant far more than just the loss of a valuable food resource. Oyster reefs represent a characteristic benthic community which offers a variety of valuable ecosystem services: better water quality, local decrease of toxic algal blooms, increase in nutrient uptake, increase of bentho-pelagic coupling, increase in species richness, increase of multidimensional biogenic structures which provide habitat, food, and protection for numerous invertebrate and fish species. The aim of oyster restoration is to promote redevelopment of this valuable missing habitat. The development of strategies, methods, and procedures for a sustainable restoration of the European oyster Ostrea edulis in the German North Sea is currently a focus of marine nature conservation. Main drivers for restoring this ecological key species are the enhancement of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the marine environment. Results of these investigations will support the future development and implementation of a large-scale and long-term German native oyster restoration programme to re-establish a healthy population of this once-abundant species now absent from the region.