Can intraspecific cooperation enhance restoration success and help meet multiple human goals?

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Carter Smith

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Globally, ecosystems are being degraded at an alarming rate. Rather than purely focusing on the conservation of existing habitats, attention in recent decades has turned to restoration science as a viable strategy for reestablishing habitats that have been lost. However, restoration is not always successful, and even when it is it is often expensive. Recent work has shown that maximizing positive species interactions in marine systems, rather than simply limiting species competition, as is the convention in terrestrial restoration, can enhance restoration success at no added cost. Furthermore, incorporating coastal habitat restoration into infrastructure schemes is a way to use restoration to meet multiple human priorities. Here, we present case studies from the USA and the Netherlands investigating species interactions between oysters and saltmarsh and mussels and seagrass, respectively. The first study demonstrates that the restoration of saltmarsh and oyster reefs together as a shoreline stabilization strategy in North Carolina, USA, enhances coastal resilience and the delivery of other important ecosystem services more significantly than saltmarsh restoration alone. The second study is a manipulative field experiment testing whether the presence of reef building mussels, which are habitat modifiers in the Netherlands, can create more optimal conditions for the establishment of planted seagrass. If restoration is to become a viable strategy for maintaining coastal ecosystems, we need to investigate every avenue for enhancing success, including more research on the costs and benefits of incorporating intraspecific facilitation in different contexts and with different species.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Society for Ecological Restoration