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Ecosystem service delivery in restoration projects: the effect of ecological succession on the benefits of tidal marsh restoration

Annelies Boerema, Ecosystem Management Research Group, University of Antwerp
Lindsay Geerts, Ecosystem Management Research Group, University of Antwerp
Lotte Oosterlee, Ecosystem Management Research Group, University of Antwerp
Stijn Temmerman, Ecosystem Management Research Group, University of Antwerp
Patrick Meire, Ecosystem Management Research Group, University of Antwerp


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Long-term assessment of ecosystem restoration projects is complex because of ecological processes such as succession, particularly in highly dynamic ecosystems such as estuaries. Restoration of intertidal flats and marshes on formerly embanked land, often called managed coastal realignment (MR), became popular in estuarine management. In our study, biophysical and monetary data were collected to calculate the value of 15 (sub)ecosystem services (ES) delivered by a large tidal marsh restoration project in the Schelde estuary in Belgium and the Netherlands. We hypothesized that ES delivery changes over time due to ecological succession and hence the long-term benefits are subject to this phenomenon and need to be taken into consideration. A marsh sediment accretion model (MARSED) was used to simulate potential marsh succession scenarios. In this way, the temporal evolution of ES delivery caused by ecological succession could be evaluated. Our study shows that benefits during successional marsh stages could actually be higher than for marshes in equilibrium. This finding does not suggest that ecosystems in transition always have a higher value than systems in equilibrium, but emphasizes the need to consider long-term ecological dynamics, such as succession, in a benefit assessment for restoration projects.

Key words

long-term benefits; managed coastal realignment (MR); marsh succession; monetary valuation; temporal scale

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087