Paradigms in the Recovery of Estuarine and Coastal Ecosystems

Carlos M. Duarte*, Angel Borja, Jacob Carstensen, Michael Elliott, Dorte Krause-Jensen, Núria Marbà

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


Following widespread deterioration of coastal ecosystems since the 1960s, current environmental policies demand ecosystem recovery and restoration. However, vague definitions of recovery and untested recovery paradigms complicate efficient stewardship of coastal ecosystems. We critically examine definitions of recovery and identify and test the implicit paradigms against well-documented cases studies based on a literature review. The study highlights a need for more careful specification of recovery targets and metrics for assessing recovery in individual ecosystems. Six recovery paradigms were identified and examination of them established that partial (as opposed to full) recovery prevails, that degradation and recovery typically follow different pathways as buffers act to maintain the degraded state, and that recovery trajectories depend on the nature of the pressure as well as the connectivity of ecosystems and can differ between ecosystem components and among ecosystems. A conceptual model illustrates the findings and also indicates how restoration efforts may accelerate the recovery process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1202-1212
Number of pages11
JournalEstuaries and Coasts
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 25 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper is a result of the project WISER (Water bodies in Europe: Integrative Systems to assess Ecological status and Recovery, ) funded by the European Union under the 7th Framework Programme, Theme 6 (Environment including Climate Change) (contract no. 226273) and the Baltic Nest Institute ( ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2013, Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation.


  • Estuarine
  • Paradigms
  • Recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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