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Addressing marine restoration success: evidence of species and functional diversity recovery in a ten-year restored macroalgal forest

  • Galobart, Cristina1
  • Ballesteros, Enric1
  • Golo, Raül2
  • Cebrian, Emma1
  • 1 Ecologia Marina, Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes (CEAB-CSIC), Blanes , (Spain)
  • 2 Biodiversitat i Recursos Marins, Universitat de Girona (UdG), Girona , (Spain)
Published Article
Frontiers in Marine Science
Frontiers Media S.A.
Publication Date
Jun 02, 2023
DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2023.1176655
  • Marine Science
  • Original Research


Active restoration actions are becoming increasingly common for the recovery of degraded ecosystems. However, establishing when an ecosystem is fully restored is rarely achieved, since the recovery of entire communities needs long-term trajectories. The lack of evidence of success is even more severe in marine ecosystems, especially in the context of macroalgal forests, where beyond the vegetation structure and species diversity there is no approximation determining the recovery of the overall functionality. Trait-based ecology facilitates the link between species composition and ecosystem functions and processes. In this study, we used a trait-based approach to assess functional recovery ten years after the start of a restoration action in a marine macroalgal forest. Species and functional diversity were compared among the restored locality, a nearby locality where the expansion of the restoration is naturally occurring, a neighbouring non-restored locality (at a distance of a few meters), and the only two remaining localities dominated by the same structural macroalga that were used as reference (non-perturbed). Species diversity and composition of the restored locality were similar to those found in reference macroalgal forests, while the non-restored and expansion locality showed different species composition and lower species diversity. Functional richness was 4-fold higher in the restored locality than in the non-restored one, even surpassing one reference macroalgal locality. The restored locality showed a greater number of trait categories, especially traits related to higher structural complexity and longer life spans, indicating changes in ecosystem functions and processes. The restoration of a canopy-forming macroalga is the first step to achieving the recovery of an entire macroalgal forest (i.e., associated species and functional diversity). The application of traditional taxonomical indices plus functional parameters provides useful insights into the assessment of the success of restoration actions at the community level, emerging as a promising approach to be replicated and contrasted in other marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

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