Manasota Key, FL, By Peter A. Ravella, CNT

Ocean recoveries for tomorrow’s Earth: Hitting a moving target

As the human population has grown, our demands on the ocean have increased rapidly. These demands have similarly increased the pressure we place on these systems, and we now cause considerable damage globally. If we want to maintain healthy ocean ecosystems into the future, we must learn to use ocean resources in a sustainable way and facilitate recovery in regions that have declined.

Determining how to make these goals a reality, however, is no small challenge. Ingeman et al. review the challenge presented by attempting both to recover and to use ecosystems simultaneously and discuss several approaches for facilitating this essential dual goal.

Ocean defaunation and loss of marine ecosystem services present an urgent need to recover degraded ocean ecosystems. Growing scientific awareness, strong regulations, and effective management have begun to fulfill the promise of recovery. Unfortunately, many efforts remain unsuccessful, in part because marine ecosystems and human societies are changing. Rapid shifts in environmental conditions are undermining previously effective recovery strategies. Moreover, divergent perceptions of recovery exist. Efforts toward reversing marine degradation must address the dynamic social-ecological landscape in which recoveries occur, or forever chase a moving target.

Recovery efforts of tomorrow will require institutional and tactical flexibility to keep pace with a changing ocean, and an inclusive concept of recovery. Further, vital population-level efforts will be most successful when complemented by a broader ecosystem and social-ecological perspective. In this Review, we provide a synthesis of ocean-recovery goals as moving targets and highlight promising steps forward.

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