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Addy Revisited: What has changed with Seagrass Restoration in 64 Years?

Author(s): Fonseca, Mark S.


Center Team: Beaufort

Publication Type: Journal Article

Journal Title: Ecological Restoration

Date of Publication: 2011

Reference Information: 29 73-81.

Keywords: CCFHR, NOAA Oceans, Resource and land use, Estuaries

Abstract: A brief appraisal of the present state of seagrass restoration in the context of the 64-year-old seminal publication by C.E. Addy reveals that early observations were prescient and have remained the basis for our collective attempts to conduct open system seagrass restoration. Our ability to ensure restoration success remains limited. A flawed philosophical framework for choosing restoration, frequently exacerbated by management inexperience and failure to apply known standards for site selection, continues to plague the process. Moreover, seagrass restoration has become an on-demand attempt to overcome hysteresis and shift a habitat from one stable state (unvegetated) to what is arguably a more complex stable state (vegetated) by artificial colonization methods. These methods are frequently overwhelmed by natural processes that ordinarily rely on orders of magnitude more propagules and years of recruitment classes. As a result, the expectations for successful seagrass restoration, like most wild community restoration projects, are often unrealistic and improperly held to an even higher standard than agricultural crops. Limited attention to project monitoring, lack of practical recovery metrics, and, in some cases, limited scientific knowledge of seagrass (e.g., population ecology, genomics, and landscape dynamics) limit our capability to generate quantitative guidance and realistic expectations. Improving the probability of successful restoration depends not so much on overcoming technical transplanting issues, but on avoiding injudicious reliance on restoration to solve higher-level resource management issues. Overall, conservation of seagrass remains a more reasonable alternative than restoration, and Addy is revealed as a keen observer of the field.

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