Depletion, Degradation, and Recovery Potential of Estuaries and Coastal Seas

Jun 23, 2006

Estuarine and coastal transformation is as old as civilization, yet the process has dramatically accelerated over the past 150 to 300 years.

This report by the Lenfest Ocean Program shows reconstructed time lines, causes, and consequences of change in 12 once diverse and productive estuaries and coastal seas worldwide show similar patterns: Human impacts have depleted 990% of formerly important species, destroyed 965% of seagrass and wetland habitat, degraded water quality, and accelerated species invasions.

Twentieth-century conservation efforts achieved partial recovery of upper trophic levels but have so far failed to restore former ecosystem structure and function. Our results provide detailed historical baselines and quantitative targets for ecosystem-based management and marine conservation.

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