Research ArticleAPPLIED ECOLOGY

Restoration of seagrass habitat leads to rapid recovery of coastal ecosystem services

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Science Advances  07 Oct 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 41, eabc6434
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc6434

Abstract

There have been increasing attempts to reverse habitat degradation through active restoration, but few large-scale successes are reported to guide these efforts. Here, we report outcomes from a unique and very successful seagrass restoration project: Since 1999, over 70 million seeds of a marine angiosperm, eelgrass (Zostera marina), have been broadcast into mid-western Atlantic coastal lagoons, leading to recovery of 3612 ha of seagrass. Well-developed meadows now foster productive and diverse animal communities, sequester substantial stocks of carbon and nitrogen, and have prompted a parallel restoration for bay scallops (Argopecten irradians). Restored ecosystem services are approaching historic levels, but we also note that managers value services differently today than they did nine decades ago, emphasizing regulating in addition to provisioning services. Thus, this study serves as a blueprint for restoring and maintaining healthy ecosystems to safeguard multiple benefits, including co-benefits that may emerge as management priorities over time.

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