From marine deserts to algal beds: Treptacantha elegans revegetation to reverse stable degraded ecosystems inside and outside a No-Take marine reserve

Alba Medrano, Bernat Hereu, Maria Cleminson, Marta Pagès-Escolà, Graciel·la Rovira, Jordi Solà, Cristina Linares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Canopy-forming algae play a key role in temperate coastal ecosystems sustaining complex habitats that provide food and refuge for rich associated biotic communities. These macroalgae are in decline in many coastal areas, where overgrazing by herbivores can lead to the loss of these highly structured and diverse habitats toward less complex sea urchin barren grounds. Once established, low productive barren grounds are considered stable states maintained by several positive feedback mechanisms that prevent the recovery of marine forests. To revert this global decline, restoration efforts and measures are being encouraged by EU regulations and local actions. Here, we tested the success of active revegetation techniques as a tool to promote functional and productive Treptacantha elegans forests in sea urchin barren grounds under different restoration strategies (active, and combined active with passive strategies). Active revegetation was performed in 6 barren grounds, 3 located inside a Mediterranean No-Take marine reserve (active and passive strategy) and 3 outside (active strategy alone), following a three-step protocol: (1) sea urchin population eradication, (2) seeding with Treptacantha elegans, and (3) enhancement of T. elegans recruitment. Revegetation success was assessed 1 year later in the six barren grounds, but was only achieved after combining active with passive restoration strategies. Our results encourage revegetation of barren grounds to shift from less productive habitats to complex T. elegans forests, highlight the potential of the combined passive and active restoration strategies, as well as the important role of marine reserves not only in conservation but also in ecological restoration.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)632-644
Number of pages13
JournalRestoration Ecology
Volume28
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 18 2020

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