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Paradigms in the Recovery of Estuarine and Coastal Ecosystems

January 14, 2014

Following widespread deterioration of coastal ecosystems since the 1960s, current environmental policies demand ecosystem recovery and restoration. However, vague definitions of recovery and untested recovery paradigms complicate efficient stewardship of coastal ecosystems. We critically examine definitions of recovery and identify and test the implicit paradigms against well-documented cases studies based on a literature review. The study highlights a need for more careful specification of recovery targets and metrics for assessing recovery in individual ecosystems. Six recovery paradigms were identified and examination of them established that partial (as opposed to full) recovery prevails, that degradation and recovery typically follow different pathways as buffers act to maintain the degraded state, and that recovery trajectories depend on the nature of the pressure as well as the connectivity of ecosystems and can differ between ecosystem components and among ecosystems. A conceptual model illustrates the findings and also indicates how restoration efforts may accelerate the recovery process.

Duarte C M, Borja A, Carstensen J, Elliott M, Krause-Jensen D, MarbĂ  N, in press. Paradigms in the Recovery of Estuarine and Coastal Ecosystems, Estuaries and Coasts, 2013, doi:10.1007/s12237-013-9750-9. Article.

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