MDPI Open Access Journals

Social Factors Key to Landscape-Scale Coastal Restoration: Lessons Learned from Three U.S. Case Studies

Jan 23, 2020

In the United States, extensive investments have been made to restore the ecological function and services of coastal marine habitats. Despite a growing body of science supporting coastal restoration, few studies have addressed the suite of societally enabling conditions that helped facilitate successful restoration and recovery efforts that occurred at meaningful ecological (i.e., ecosystem) scales, and where restoration efforts were sustained for longer (i.e., several years to decades) periods. Here, we examined three case studies involving large-scale and long-term restoration efforts including the seagrass restoration effort in Tampa Bay, Florida, the oyster restoration effort in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia, and the tidal marsh restoration effort in San Francisco Bay, California. The ecological systems and the specifics of the ecological restoration were not the focus of our study. Rather, we focused on the underlying social and political contexts of each case study and found common themes of the factors of restoration which appear to be important for maintaining support for large-scale restoration efforts. Four critical elements for sustaining public and/or political support for large-scale restoration include: (1) resources should be invested in building public support prior to significant investments into ecological restoration; (2) building political support provides a level of significance to the recovery planning efforts and creates motivation to set and achieve meaningful recovery goals; (3) recovery plans need to be science-based with clear, measurable goals that resonate with the public; and (4) the accountability of progress toward reaching goals needs to be communicated frequently and in a way that the general public comprehends. These conclusions may help other communities move away from repetitive, single, and seemingly unconnected restoration projects towards more large-scale, bigger impact, and coordinated restoration efforts.