Harnessing positive species interactions to enhance coastal wetland restoration
© 2019 Renzi, He and Silliman. Coastal wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. They generate critical services for humans including shoreline protection, carbon storage, pollution mitigation, and fisheries production. Restoration of coastal wetlands has historically been viewed as a secondary conservation strategy, but recently-given the continued loss of wetlands worldwide-many non-governmental and governmental organizations have elevated habitat restoration to be a primary method for wetland conservation. The long-held paradigm in coastal wetland restoration has been to restore target habitats by reducing physical stressors and avoiding competition among outplants, such as mangrove saplings or Spartina plugs. Recent ecological research, however, reveals that positive species interactions, such as facilitation, are critical to wetland recovery after disturbance. Here, we review the scientific evidence for the importance of positive species interactions in the recovery of salt-marsh and mangrove ecosystems and assess the extent to which they have been integrated into restoration studies. We found that only a small proportion of studies of marsh and mangrove restoration examined the effects of positive species interactions, despite the important role they play in the regrowth of coastal wetlands. We outline how positive species interactions can be systematically incorporated into future restoration work and discuss how this incorporation can help the reestablishment of coastal wetland biota through: (1) trophic facilitation, (2) stress reduction, and (3) associational defenses. The absence of positive interactions in restoration designs may partially explain the significant disparities between the functioning of natural and restored coastal plant ecosystems.
Renzi, JJ; He, Q; Silliman, BR
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