This paper was funded by the NOAA RESTORE Research Program under award NOAA-NOSNCCOS-2017-2004875 to the Louisiana State University, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Rutgers University, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Michigan Technological University, University of Tennessee -Knoxville, and University of Florida.
Wetlands -- Conservation
Advancing ecological restoration assessments requires a more detailed consideration of species interactions and ecosystem processes. Most restoration projects rely on a few metrics not always directly linked with ecological theory. Here, we used Odum's theory of ecosystem development to assess and compare the ecosystem structure and services of created marshes (4–6 years old) with preexisting, reference marshes in a brackish water region of the Mississippi River Delta. We built ecosystem models for created and reference marshes that integrated large datasets of stomach contents, stable isotopes, and taxa abundances. Despite strong resemblance in community structure, created marshes were at an earlier succession stage compared to the reference marshes, having lower biomass (including exploited species), higher biomass turnover and production, less dependence on detritus, lower material cycling, and less energy flowing through specialist pathways. Although preserving preexisting marshes should be a priority, created marshes may still be an important tool for the restoration of coastal areas and their ecosystem services. In addition, our results show that comparisons of species biodiversity alone may fail to capture essential differences in ecosystem processes between habitats, which reinforces the importance of ecosystem modeling approaches to assess restoration projects.
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Keppeler, F. W., Engel, A. S., Hooper‐Bùi, L. M., López‐Duarte, P. C., Martin, C. W., Olin, J. A., ... & Jensen, O. P. (2023). Coastal wetland restoration through the lens of Odum's theory of ecosystem development. Restoration Ecology, e14072.