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Depletion, Degradation, and Recovery Potential of Estuaries and Coastal Seas

Science  23 Jun 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5781, pp. 1806-1809
DOI: 10.1126/science.1128035

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Abstract

Estuarine and coastal transformation is as old as civilization yet has dramatically accelerated over the past 150 to 300 years. Reconstructed time lines, causes, and consequences of change in 12 once diverse and productive estuaries and coastal seas worldwide show similar patterns: Human impacts have depleted >90% of formerly important species, destroyed >65% of seagrass and wetland habitat, degraded water quality, and accelerated species invasions. Twentieth-century conservation efforts achieved partial recovery of upper trophic levels but have so far failed to restore former ecosystem structure and function. Our results provide detailed historical baselines and quantitative targets for ecosystem-based management and marine conservation.

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