Positive Feedbacks in Seagrass Ecosystems: Implications for Success in Conservation and Restoration

van der Heide, T., E.H. van Nes, G.W. Geerling, A.J.P. Smolders, T.J. Bouma and M.M. van Katwijk (

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In the 1930s, such a dramatic event happened in the Dutch Wadden Sea. Before the shift, large seagrass beds (Zostera marina) were present in this area. After the construction of a large dam and an incidence of the “wasting disease” in the early 1930s, these meadows became virtually extinct and never recovered despite restoration attempts. We investigated whether this shift could be explained as a critical transition between alternative stable states, and whether the lack of recovery could be due to the high resilience of the new turbid state. As positive feedbacks are common in seagrasses, our findings may explain both the worldwide observed collapses and the low success rate of restoration attempts of seagrass habitats. Therefore, appreciation of ecosystem resilience may be crucial in seagrass ecosystem management.

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Peer-reviewed Article