Elaborating the benefits humans receive from coastal wetlands using a Cultural Ecosystem Services assessment is an emergent and important field linking human wellbeing to ecosystem function. Translating these benefits into useable concepts for environmental policymakers, and managers is challenging yet important for supporting landscape restoration projects. This study responds to the call for Cultural Ecosystem Services case studies beyond the northern hemisphere. A household survey of residents adjacent to a peri-urban coastal wetland in South Australia and an online survey of interest groups were administered to identify co-benefits associated with a coastal restoration project in the region. A dynamic/relational cultural values framework guided the analysis. Findings reveal that visitation has a positive influence; people valued most the places with which they were familiar. The analysis confirms a mutual connection between: ‘doing’ (undertaking an activity), environmental awareness and appreciation, the formation of attachment to place, and having positive experiences. The analysis also points out that the naturalness of this coastline is highly valued. The findings here diverge from previous coastal landscape assessments based singularly on scenic value. The implication is that localised, place-based landscape assessments which include cultural values, offer a more deliberative approach to policy development and planning and will more likely incorporate what matters most to people.
Coastal marine ecosystems provide critical goods and services to humanity but many are experiencing rapid degradation. The need for effective restoration tools capable of promoting large-scale recovery of coastal ecosystems in the face of intensifying climatic stress has never been greater. We identify four major challenges for more effective implementation of coastal marine ecosystem restoration (MER): (1) development of effective, scalable restoration methods, (2) incorporation of innovative tools that promote climate adaptation, (3) integration of social and ecological restoration priorities, and (4) promotion of the perception and use of coastal MER as a scientifically credible management approach. Tackling these challenges should improve restoration success rates, heighten their recognition, and accelerate investment in and promotion of coastal MER. To reverse the accelerating decline of marine ecosystems, we discuss potential directions for meeting these challenges by applying coastal MER tools that are science-based and actionable. For coastal restoration to have a global impact, it must incorporate social science, technological and conceptual advances, and plan for future climate scenarios.
Asset-intensive industries (including water and power utilities, mineral resources and energy) are those which require significant levels of capital investment in their assets in order to operate. These industries face challenges from uncertainty in resource availability and demand for end products, the intricate and complicated nature of their assets, and the complexity of the economic, ecological and social settings in which they operate. In these industries, the application of decision frameworks that account for this uncertainty and complexity in guiding asset investment and development is standard practice. Lessons from asset-intensive industries were applied during the concept feasibility phase of the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program (RRAP) to establish the investment case for research and development into interventions to help the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) resist, adapt to, and recover from the impacts of climate change. The authors worked with RRAP partners to define a decision framework that included structured decision-making processes (SDM), a cost-benefit analysis (CBA), and a value of information (VoI) analysis, to establish the investment case for intervening on the GBR which led to success in securing Australian Government commitment for the next phase of the Program. With climate change expected to drive increased demand for significant levels of restoration and adaptation investment in large integrated social, ecological and economic assets (such as the GBR), the lessons from RRAP offer insights for the application of decision frameworks to inform public and private investment priorities.
Coral reef ecosystems are under increasing pressure from local and regional stressors and a changing climate. Current management focuses on reducing stressors to allow for natural recovery, but in many areas where coral reefs are damaged, natural recovery can be restricted, delayed or interrupted because of unstable, unconsolidated coral fragments, or rubble. Rubble fields are a natural component of coral reefs, but repeated or high-magnitude disturbances can prevent natural cementation and consolidation processes, so that coral recruits fail to survive. A suite of interventions have been used to target this issue globally, such as using mesh to stabilise rubble, removing the rubble to reveal hard substrate and deploying rocks or other hard substrates over the rubble to facilitate recruit survival. Small, modular structures can be used at multiple scales, with or without attached coral fragments, to create structural complexity and settlement surfaces. However, these can introduce foreign materials to the reef, and a limited understanding of natural recovery processes exists for the potential of this type of active intervention to successfully restore local coral reef structure. This review synthesises available knowledge about the ecological role of coral rubble, natural coral recolonisation and recovery rates and the potential benefits and risks associated with active interventions in this rapidly evolving field. Fundamental knowledge gaps include baseline levels of rubble, the structural complexity of reef habitats in space and time, natural rubble consolidation processes and the risks associated with each intervention method. Any restoration intervention needs to be underpinned by risk assessment, and the decision to repair rubble fields must arise from an understanding of when and where unconsolidated substrate and lack of structure impair natural reef recovery and ecological function. Monitoring is necessary to ascertain the success or failure of the intervention and impacts of potential risks, but there is a strong need to specify desired outcomes, the spatial and temporal context and indicators to be measured. With a focus on the Great Barrier Reef, we synthesise the techniques, successes and failures associated with rubble stabilisation and the use of small structures, review monitoring methods and indicators, and provide recommendations to ensure that we learn from past projects.
Increasing coastal populations and urban development have led to the loss of estuarine habitats for fish and wildlife. Specifically, a decline in complexity and heterogeneity of tidal marshes and creeks is thought to negatively impact fish communities by altering the function of nursery grounds, including predator refuge and prey resources. To offset these impacts, numerous agencies are restoring degraded habitats while also creating new ones where habitat has been lost. To improve understanding of what contributes to a successful restoration, six quarterly sampling events using two gear types to collect small- and large-bodied fishes were conducted to compare the fish community structure and habitat characteristics at three natural, three restored, and three impacted (i.e. ditched) areas along the coast of Tampa Bay, Florida. Overall, impacted sites had significantly lower small-bodied and juvenile fish diversity than natural and restored areas, while restored sites harbored a greater number of fish species than impacted sites for both large- and small-bodied fish. Habitat features such as shoreline slope differentiated impacted and restored from natural areas. Although we did not find a direct correlation, habitat heterogeneity likely played a role in structuring fish communities. These findings provide guidance for future coastal restoration or modification of existing projects. Specifically, the habitat mosaic approach of creating a geographically compact network of heterogenous habitat characteristics is likely to support fish diversity, while decreasing shoreline slope in a greater amount of area within coastal wetland restorations would more closely mimic natural areas.
Marine coastal (or “blue”) ecosystems provide valuable services to humanity and the environment, but global loss and degradation of blue ecosystems necessitates ecological restoration. However, blue restoration is an emerging field and is still relatively experimental and small-scale. Identification of the key barriers to scaling-up blue restoration will enable targeted problem solving and increase the likelihood of success. Here we describe the environmental, technical, social, economic, and political barriers to restoration of blue ecosystems, including saltmarsh, mangroves, seagrass, shellfish reefs, coral reefs, and kelp forests. We provide managers, practitioners, and decision-makers with solutions to construct barrier-informed blue restoration plans and illustrate these solutions through the use of case studies where barriers were overcome. We offer a way forward to build confidence in blue restoration for society, government, and restoration practitioners at larger and more ambitious scales.
Over 85% of the world's oyster reefs have been lost in the past two centuries, triggering a global effort to restore shellfish reef ecosystems and the ecosystem services they provide. While there has been considerable success in re-establishing oyster reefs, many challenges remain. These include: high incidence of failed restoration, high cost of restoration per unit area, and increasing stress from climate change. In order to leverage our past successes and progress the field, we must increase restoration efficiencies that not only reduce cost per unit area, but also increase the resilience of restored ecosystems. To help address this need, we qualitatively review the literature associated with the structure and function of oyster reef ecosystems to identify key positive species interactions (i.e., those species interactions where at least one partner benefits and no partners are harmed). We classified positive inter- and intraspecific interactions between oysters and organisms associated with oyster ecosystems into the following seven functional categories: (1) physical reef creation, (2) positive density dependence, (3) refugia from physical stress, (4) refugia from biological stress, (5) biodiversity enhancement, (6) settlement improvement, and (7) long-distance facilitation. We discuss each category of positive interaction and how restoration practitioners can use knowledge of such processes to enhance restoration success. We propose that systematic incorporation of positive species interactions into restoration practice will both enhance ecological services provided by restored reefs and increase restoration success.
Reversing the decline of coastal marine ecosystems will rely extensively on ecological restoration. This will in turn rely on ensuring adequate supply and survival of propagules — for the main habitat-forming taxa of coastal marine ecosystems these are mainly fruits, seeds, viviparous seedlings, zoospores or larvae. The likelihood of propagule survival — and so restoration success — depends on species- and context-specific knowledge to guide choices about appropriate methods to use. Here, we briefly review life-histories of the main habitat-forming taxa of six coastal marine ecosystems: mangrove forests, tidal marshes, seagrass meadows, kelp forests, coral reefs and bivalve reefs. Restoration of several of these ecosystems has long harnessed the unique properties of propagules, sometimes because they are simple to use (for example, planting propagules of some mangroves), and sometimes because we can draw on knowledge gained from other applications (for example using knowledge of oyster culture to restore bivalve reefs). For other ecosystems, like seagrass meadows, kelp forests and coral reefs, propagules have not yet been widely used, but there is compelling evidence that they can be. Most restoration efforts have used relatively simple techniques, such as manual collection and direct planting or seeding. Some approaches use more complex techniques which include a stage in which propagules are reared in nurseries or aquaria to a size or age at which they are viable, when they are then planted or released at the site to be restored. Other approaches use minimal intervention, and focus instead on providing the conditions that will promote growth from naturally dispersed propagules (such as restoring hydrological conditions to facilitate mangrove recruitment). Future approaches could incorporate knowledge applied from other fields, such as genetics and agriculture, and harness the possibilities provided by technology. Understanding the importance of propagule quality will likely also yield insights, as will effective use of models to help refine restoration methods for testing. Deeper partnerships between practitioners and researchers will help test and develop better methods so that we can learn from each other and strive to improve. Propagules offer multiple promising avenues to expand coastal marine restoration efforts and help achieve global ambitions.
Habitat loss and degradation are recognised as the most important causes of species decline and extinction in marine ecosystems. It is also widely recognised that a range of restoration actions are now essential to halt further decline. From a policy perspective, demonstration that restoration activity is in the interest of society is an important goal. In this paper, the welfare impacts of restoring Norwegian kelp forests to areas where they once were dominant but which now lie barren are estimated using the discrete choice modelling approach. The paper also examines if more direct contact with the environmental good under investigation influences respondents' willingness to pay to restore ecosystem features. The results indicate a positive and significant marginal societal willingness to pay for the ecosystem services associated with kelp forest restoration. The enhanced biodiversity levels as a result of the restoration activity are the most highly valued by the Norwegian public although the size of the area restored is more highly valued by respondents who are active marine environment users. It is argued that without incorporating these non-market values into the decision making process marine policy decisions may be made that are not in fact in the best interest of society.
Ecological restoration in marine ecosystems is considered strategic to recover environmental conditions and ecosystem services. However, the traditional single-discipline perspectives followed for analyzing the results of both restoration projects (focused in the analysis of biophysical changes) and valuation of ecosystem services (focused in economic valuation), do not provide useful theoretical frameworks when working with cultural ecosystem services, where socio-economic and environmental components are complexly interrelated. We propose an interdisciplinary approach for analyzing changes in cultural ecosystem services in restored marine ecosystems, based on the DAPSI(W)R(M) framework and following a social-ecological system approach. Our methodology considers environmental, social and economic elements that may be contributing to changes in the provision and demand for cultural ecosystem services in restored ecosystems. Our approach was tested in the Nerbioi estuary, a system that, after the implementation of a wastewater treatment plant at the end of the 20th Century, changed from being one of the most polluted estuaries in Europe to a nearly recovered system. Based on previous studies that have analyzed partial components of the restoration process and of the recreational ecosystem services, here we provide an interdisciplinary picture of the changes occurred in the last 25 years, directly linking the management measures adopted to an increase in human well-being. In the applied methodology, the three discipline domains (social, economic, and environmental) transcend each other to provide a new holistic view, completely different from what one would expect from the addition of the parts. In conclusion, this interdisciplinary approach provides a systematic framework for studying changes in cultural ecosystem services in restored systems, with a practical application for valuing human benefits as outcomes of marine restoration projects.