EurekAlert recently reported that Australia’s National Science Agency, CSIRO, has identified a number of coastal ‘bright spots’ which they hope can help improve coastal restoration processes across the globe. 

Published in the Current Biology journal, CSIRO’s research outlined successful examples of coastal restoration from around the globe. Learning from these examples, and implementing the techniques into similar environments, could help in the fight against coastal degradation.

Doctor Megan Saunders, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Senior Research Scientist, said "Identifying bright spots that have delivered successful coastal and marine restoration in the past enables us to apply this knowledge to help save marine areas that are struggling to recover from degradation.”

Coastal ‘bright spots’ provide the blueprint for future restoration
Coastal ‘bright spots’ provide the blueprint for future restoration

According to Saunders, "Coastal ecosystems across the globe including saltmarshes, mangroves, seagrasses, oyster reefs, kelp beds and coral reefs have declined by up to 85 per cent over decades." Over 775 million people around the globe directly depend on such ecosystems - not to mention wildlife. And what’s more, these environments also help in the fight against climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stabilising shorelines. In fact, the UN panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy recently highlighted the benefit of coastal restoration, while the United Nations instigated a Decade on Ecosystem Restoration from 2021. 

Luckily, a variety of techniques are already being used over extended periods of time to restore significant areas of coastal habitats, including salt marshes, coral reefs and seagrass meadows. "For example, CSIRO is harvesting coral larvae in the Great Barrier Reef to boost large-scale coral restoration efforts. Simple changes to how we plant salt marshes have also resulted in doubled survivorship and biomass," Saunders said.

“'bright spots' gave us the window to understand which restoration methods worked best so we could identify where to focus research efforts and investment to protect people's livelihoods.”- Brian Silliman, Co-Author and CSIRO Distinguished Fulbright Chair in Science and Technology and Professor of Duke University

One notable example of this was a $20 million investment by the Australian Government to restore lost shellfish reefs, and other such investments are already beginning to pay off. 

"Investing into coastal restoration creates jobs and can be used as a strategy to boost economic recovery and coastal marine health," Professor Silliman explained. "Restoration of marine habitats, such as kelp forests and oyster reefs, has improved commercial and recreational fishing in some countries, which boosted the local economy.”

"In the USA, the propagation and dispersal of seagrass seeds resulted in seagrass meadows recovering in areas where they had been lost many decades ago, removing an estimated 170 tonnes of nitrogen and 630 tonnes carbon per year from the atmosphere.”

"In another study, recovery of reefs impacted by blast fishing in Indonesia has been achieved by placing rocks or other hard structures underwater to help with coral colonisation, with persistent growth of coral recorded for more than 14 years."

Overall, CSIRO believes successful coastal restoration is possible over large areas, delivering positive impacts for decades to both the environment and economies, and these ‘bright spots’ can provide the blueprint.

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