Recovery of degraded coastal ecosystems requires so much more than protection – how restoration and conservation go hand-in-hand


As the world races toward environmental targets, including the 2030 targets in CBD’s Kumming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, the negotiated goals of the UNFCC COP 28, the objectives of the BBNJ Agreement, and even the largely ignored SDGs, the enormous emphasis on protection of intact nature and nature-based solutions belies the realities. Intact ecosystems are few, and piecemeal protection of them will never get us to where we need to be. This is especially the case in marine and coastal ecosystems, which are highly connected across wide geographies and which are suffering the death of a thousand cuts. A strategic approach to identifying priority areas for restoration – and investing in the problem-scoping necessary to know how to restore them, is our only option for enhancing ecosystem resilience. With examples from the insular Caribbean, I contrast the conventional conservation paradigm with an ocean health-oriented restoration approach and speak to lessons learned with potential applications in many other biomes.

Dr. Tundi Agardy is the founder of Sound Seas, a Washington DC-based group working at the nexus of science and policy to advance marine conservation around the globe. She also directs the Marine Ecosystem Services (MARES) Program of Forest Trends, which specializes in launching innovative financing for marine management. Tundi has published widely on MSP and related topics, including the 2010 book Ocean Zoning: Making Management More Effective.