Conclusions

The documented losses of estuarine and coastal habitats worldwide demand our attention, and active measures to initially halt further losses and secondarily reverse the trends in favor of restoration and recovery are needed. Technology allows us to improve engineering practices on land that greatly affect wetlands and coastal communities, and also to experiment with restoration approaches to mitigate past mistakes. However, restoration is not a simple or inexpensive endeavor, and damage that can occur over weeks and months can take decades to reverse.

If we are to leave a positive environmental legacy for future generations, science has to be translated into a form and format that the public and policymakers can understand and appreciate. Technology has proven to be a double-edged sword: it can damage and it can be applied to repair.

For what remains of relatively healthy estuaries and coastal waters, it is clear that prevention is the most effective approach to estuarine and coastal reef stewardship. Restoration of a particular habitat in an estuary and coastal water appears possible but generally fails if the underlying factors that cause the initial degradation or death of the habitat are not first addressed. More often that not, this requires remediation measures far upstream on land and in the river.

See also: Coastal Zone Restoration; Coral Reefs; Estuarine Ecohydrology; Mangrove Wetlands; Salt Marshes.

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