Coastal and estuarine habitats, many of which have already been reduced by over 50%, face numerous threats such as reduced water quality, high turbidity, low dissolved oxygen, and continued habitat degradation. Therefore, restoration efforts will likely be necessary in many coastal systems to recover lost habitats and associated ecosystem services. In addition to understanding where these habitats have been lost, quantifying where and how many acres of each key habitat (e.g., seagrass beds, salt marshes, oyster reefs, coral reefs and mangroves) have previously been restored will help guide future restoration efforts. We reviewed existing restoration databases across multiple federal agencies that conduct coastal habitat restoration in the U.S. to provide a more comprehensive understanding of restoration effort over the past 10 years. We then compared how the average size and extent of restoration effort varies as a function of habitat, region and time.
Our analyses suggest that restoration efforts vary widely by habitat type, though we have thus far only examined restoration efforts conducted by one agency. In particular, far more tidal wetland has been restored over the past decade than other critical coastal and estuarine habitats, but the amount of oyster reef and mangrove habitats restored annually have increased substantially during this same period. We are in the process of integrating data from the NOAA Restoration Center, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of Agriculture, US Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to build a more holistic understanding of past restoration effort in the U.S. Reviewing past restoration efforts is a necessary step in determining the degree to which restoration and conservation efforts are recovering lost ecosystem functions associated with coastal and estuarine habitats.