Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 1202–1212 | Cite as

Paradigms in the Recovery of Estuarine and Coastal Ecosystems

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


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.


Estuarine Recovery Paradigms 



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 (


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlos M. Duarte
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Angel Borja
    • 4
  • Jacob Carstensen
    • 5
  • Michael Elliott
    • 7
  • Dorte Krause-Jensen
    • 6
  • Núria Marbà
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Global Change Research, IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB)Institut Mediterrani d’Estudis AvançatsEsporlesSpain
  2. 2.Faculty of Marine SciencesKing Abdulaziz UniversityJeddahSaudi Arabia
  3. 3.The UWA Oceans InstituteUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  4. 4.Marine Research DivisionAZTI-TecnaliaPasaiaSpain
  5. 5.Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversityRoskildeDenmark
  6. 6.Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversitySilkeborgDenmark
  7. 7.Institute of Estuarine & Coastal StudiesUniversity of HullHullUK

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