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Ecosystem Design: When Mangrove Ecology Meets Human Needs

  • Martin Zimmer
Chapter
Part of the Coastal Research Library book series (COASTALRL, volume 25)

Abstract

At least two thirds of all ecosystems worldwide have been impacted and changed severely by human activity (MEA Millennium ecosystem assessment – ecosystems and human well-being: biodiversity synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC, 2005), mostly without considering consequences for the structure, functioning or service-provisioning of these ecosystems. The societal challenges arising from this are twofold: conserving natural heritage and resources, and at the same time providing and sustaining valuable livelihood and well-being for mankind. Once we missed the chance of preserving an ecosystem from degradation through conservation, restoration is the attempt to repair (i.e., bringing back to a past state) or otherwise enhance (i.e., promoting remaining components and structures) the function of an ecosystem that has been impacted (Suding KN, Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 42:465–87, 2011) into a state that warrants historical continuity (Murcia C et al., Trends Ecol Evol 29:548–553, 2014) and closely resembles natural conditions. Nevertheless, most restoration efforts lack a clear aim, and monitoring is rarely considered. Hence, an evaluation of restoration success is difficult, if not impossible. As an alternative to restoration, a new five-step concept of directed design for novel ecosystems (sensu Hobbs RJ, Arico S, Aronson J, Baron JS, Bridgewater P, Cramer VA, Epstein PR, Ewel JJ, Klink CA, Lugo AE, Norton D, Ojima D, Richardson DM, Sanderson EW, Valladares F, Vilà M, Zamora R, Zobel M et al., Glob Ecol Biogeogr 15:1–7, 2006; Morse NB, Pellissier PA, Cianciola EN, Brereton RL, Sullivan MM, Shonka NK, Wheeler TB, McDowell WH et al., Ecol Soc 19:12–21, 2014) with defined functions and services is presented in this chapter. Recent advances in restoration ecology pledge for accepting unintended novel ecosystems as valuable providers of ecosystem services in restoration efforts (Perring MP, Standish RJ, Hobbs RJ et al., Ecol Process 2:18–25, 2013; Abelson A, Halpern B, Reed DC, Orth RJ, Kendrick GA, Beck MW, Belmaker J, Krause G, Edgar GJ, Airoldi L, Brokovich E, France R, Shashar N, De Blaeij A, Stambler N, Salameh P, Shechter M, Nelson PA et al., Bio Sci 66:156–163, 2016). Ecosystem Design develops this idea further to intendedly designing novel ecosystems with the aim of providing particular services that are locally or regionally required for the well-being of mankind. Thus, in contrast to conventional restoration, Ecosystem Design places humans and their needs in the center of action. For this, Ecosystem Design first assesses local and regional needs for ecosystem services to be provided. Second, Ecosystem Design defines a set of these services as goals for the establishment of a functioning ecosystem in a degraded area. In a third step, a toolbox of information on species characteristics and requirements, as well as on the species-specific contributions to service-provisioning, including interspecific interactions under the given environmental conditions, recommends a set of suitable species from the regionally available species pool. Such a toolbox requires trait-based models to determine which species assemblages are most effective (Laughlin DC, Ecol Lett 17:771–784, 2014) in providing the desired ecosystem services, and the choice of suitable and appropriate species would be facilitated by knowledge of previous community composition. The set of initial species will, in a fifth step, be installed in the degraded area, and subsequent natural succession will shape and fine-tune this novel designed ecosystem (unless this semi-natural development deviates from the aim of providing particular ecosystem services, when counteraction to semi-natural succession will be required). Upon installation and subsequent development of the designed ecosystem, long-term monitoring in the sixth step will allow for evaluating the success of the design and intervention if needed, since clear aims and goals had been defined in the second step of Ecosystem Design. Whereas this approach may in cases contrast efforts to conserve or restore biodiversity on its own sake, Ecosystem Design aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations in warranting human well-being in times of increasing demands for ecosystem services, especially in tropical coastal areas with ever-growing population sizes.

Keywords

Ecosystem Services Service-Providing Unit Novel Ecosystems Directed Ecosystem Restoration 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I am grateful to Véronique Helfer (ZMT) and the ZMT Research Focus Area Ecosystem Design (in alphabetical order: Werner Ekau, Sebastian Ferse, Nils Moosdorf, Hauke Reuter) for fruitful discussions on ecosystem restoration and design.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EcologyLeibniz Centre for Tropical Marine ResearchBremenGermany
  2. 2.University of Bremen, Faculty 02 Biology/ChemistryBremenGermany
  3. 3.IUCN-SSC Mangrove Specialist GroupBremenGermany

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