Ecosystem Design: When Mangrove Ecology Meets Human Needs

  • Martin Zimmer
Part of the Coastal Research Library book series (COASTALRL, volume 25)


At least two thirds of all ecosystems worldwide have been impacted and changed severely by human activity (MEA Millennium ecosystem assessment – ecosystems and human well-being: biodiversity synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC, 2005), mostly without considering consequences for the structure, functioning or service-provisioning of these ecosystems. The societal challenges arising from this are twofold: conserving natural heritage and resources, and at the same time providing and sustaining valuable livelihood and well-being for mankind. Once we missed the chance of preserving an ecosystem from degradation through conservation, restoration is the attempt to repair (i.e., bringing back to a past state) or otherwise enhance (i.e., promoting remaining components and structures) the function of an ecosystem that has been impacted (Suding KN, Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 42:465–87, 2011) into a state that warrants historical continuity (Murcia C et al., Trends Ecol Evol 29:548–553, 2014) and closely resembles natural conditions. Nevertheless, most restoration efforts lack a clear aim, and monitoring is rarely considered. Hence, an evaluation of restoration success is difficult, if not impossible. As an alternative to restoration, a new five-step concept of directed design for novel ecosystems (sensu Hobbs RJ, Arico S, Aronson J, Baron JS, Bridgewater P, Cramer VA, Epstein PR, Ewel JJ, Klink CA, Lugo AE, Norton D, Ojima D, Richardson DM, Sanderson EW, Valladares F, Vilà M, Zamora R, Zobel M et al., Glob Ecol Biogeogr 15:1–7, 2006; Morse NB, Pellissier PA, Cianciola EN, Brereton RL, Sullivan MM, Shonka NK, Wheeler TB, McDowell WH et al., Ecol Soc 19:12–21, 2014) with defined functions and services is presented in this chapter. Recent advances in restoration ecology pledge for accepting unintended novel ecosystems as valuable providers of ecosystem services in restoration efforts (Perring MP, Standish RJ, Hobbs RJ et al., Ecol Process 2:18–25, 2013; Abelson A, Halpern B, Reed DC, Orth RJ, Kendrick GA, Beck MW, Belmaker J, Krause G, Edgar GJ, Airoldi L, Brokovich E, France R, Shashar N, De Blaeij A, Stambler N, Salameh P, Shechter M, Nelson PA et al., Bio Sci 66:156–163, 2016). Ecosystem Design develops this idea further to intendedly designing novel ecosystems with the aim of providing particular services that are locally or regionally required for the well-being of mankind. Thus, in contrast to conventional restoration, Ecosystem Design places humans and their needs in the center of action. For this, Ecosystem Design first assesses local and regional needs for ecosystem services to be provided. Second, Ecosystem Design defines a set of these services as goals for the establishment of a functioning ecosystem in a degraded area. In a third step, a toolbox of information on species characteristics and requirements, as well as on the species-specific contributions to service-provisioning, including interspecific interactions under the given environmental conditions, recommends a set of suitable species from the regionally available species pool. Such a toolbox requires trait-based models to determine which species assemblages are most effective (Laughlin DC, Ecol Lett 17:771–784, 2014) in providing the desired ecosystem services, and the choice of suitable and appropriate species would be facilitated by knowledge of previous community composition. The set of initial species will, in a fifth step, be installed in the degraded area, and subsequent natural succession will shape and fine-tune this novel designed ecosystem (unless this semi-natural development deviates from the aim of providing particular ecosystem services, when counteraction to semi-natural succession will be required). Upon installation and subsequent development of the designed ecosystem, long-term monitoring in the sixth step will allow for evaluating the success of the design and intervention if needed, since clear aims and goals had been defined in the second step of Ecosystem Design. Whereas this approach may in cases contrast efforts to conserve or restore biodiversity on its own sake, Ecosystem Design aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations in warranting human well-being in times of increasing demands for ecosystem services, especially in tropical coastal areas with ever-growing population sizes.


Ecosystem Services Service-Providing Unit Novel Ecosystems Directed Ecosystem Restoration 



I am grateful to Véronique Helfer (ZMT) and the ZMT Research Focus Area Ecosystem Design (in alphabetical order: Werner Ekau, Sebastian Ferse, Nils Moosdorf, Hauke Reuter) for fruitful discussions on ecosystem restoration and design.


  1. Abelson A (2006) Artificial reefs versus coral transplantation as restoration tools for mitigating coral reef deterioration: benefits, concerns and proposed guidelines. Bull Mar Sci 78:151–159Google Scholar
  2. Abelson A, Halpern B, Reed DC, Orth RJ, Kendrick GA, Beck MW, Belmaker J, Krause G, Edgar GJ, Airoldi L, Brokovich E, France R, Shashar N, De Blaeij A, Stambler N, Salameh P, Shechter M, Nelson PA (2016) Upgrading marine ecosystem restoration using ecological-social concepts. Bioscience 66:156–163CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Alexander S, Nelson CR, Aronson J, Lamb D, Cliquet A, Erwin KL, Finlayson CM, de Groot RS, Harris JA, Higgs ES, Hobbs RJ, Lewis RRR III, Martinez D, Murcia C (2011) Opportunities and Challenges for Ecological Restoration within REDD+. Restoration Ecol 19:683–689Google Scholar
  4. Alongi DM (2011) Carbon payments for mangrove conservation: ecosystem constraints and uncertainties of sequestration potential. Environ Sci Pol 14:462–470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Balke T, Friess DA (2015) Geomorphic knowledge for mangrove restoration: a pan-tropical categorization. Earth Surf Process Landf.
  6. Bandibas MB, Hilomen VV (2016) Crab biodiversity under different management schemes of mangrove ecosystems. Glob J Environ Sci Manag 2:19–30Google Scholar
  7. Barbier EB, Hacker SD, Kennedy C, Koch EW, Stier AC, Silliman BR (2011) The Value of Estuarine and Coastal Ecosystem Services. Ecol Monogr 81:169–183Google Scholar
  8. Bashan Y, Holguin G (2002) Plant growth-promoting bacteria: a potential tool for arid mangrove restoration. Trees 16:159–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berry D, Widder S (2014) Deciphering microbial interactions and detecting keystone species with co-occurrence networks. Front Microbiol 5:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bosire JO, Dahdouh-Guebas F, Walton M, Crona BI, Lewis RR III, Field C, Kairo JG, Koedam N (2008) Functionality of restored mangroves: a review. Aquat Bot 89:251–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bradshaw CJ, Sodhi ANS, Brook BW (2009) Tropical turmoil: a biodiversity tragedy in progress. Front Ecol Environ 7:79–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dahdouh-Guebas F, Verneirt M, Cannicci S, Kairo JG, Tack JF, Koedam N (2002) An exploratory study on grapsid crab zonation in Kenyan mangroves. Wetl Ecol Manag 10:179–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dayton PK (1971) Competition, disturbance and community organization: the provision and subsequent utilization of space in a rocky intertidal community. Ecol Monogr 41:351–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dombrowski N, Baker B (2016) Can we harness bacteria to help clean up future oil spills? The Conversation June 22Google Scholar
  15. Ellison AM (2000) Mangrove restoration: do we know enough? Restor Ecol 8:219–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Elster C (2000) Reasons for reforestation success and failure with three mangrove species in Colombia. For Ecol Manag 131:201–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ferreira AC, Ganade G, de Attayde JL (2015) Restoration versus natural regeneration in a neotropical mangrove: effects on plant biomass and crab communities. Ocean Coast Manag 110:38–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Field CD (1998) Rehabilitation of mangrove ecosystems: an overview. Mar Pollut Bull 37:383–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fuentes M, Hidalgo C, González-Martín I, Hernández-Hierro JM, Govaerts B, Sayrre KD, Etchevers J (2012) NIR Spectroscopy: an alternative for soil analysis. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 43:346–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gerber L, Eliasson M, Trygg J, Moritz T, Sunberg B (2012) Multivariate curve resolution provides a high-throughput data processing pipeline for pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. J Anal Appl Pyrol 95:95–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gillis LG, Zimmer M, Bouma TJ (2016) Mangrove leaf transportation: do mimic Avicennia and Rhizophora roots retain or donate leaves? Mar Ecol Prog Ser 551:107–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Giri C, Ochieng E, Tieszen LL, Zhu Z, Singh A, Loveland T, Masek J, Duke N (2011) Status and distribution of mangrove forests of the world using earth observation satellite data. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 20:154–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gomes NCM, Cleary DFR, Pinto FN, Egas S, Almeida A, Cunha A, Mendonça-Hagler LCS, Smalla K (2010) Taking root: enduring effect of rhizosphere bacterial colonization in mangroves. PLoS One 5:e14065. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Halpern BS, Silliman BR, Olden JD, Bruno JP, Bertness MD (2007) Incorporating positive interactions in aquatic restoration and conservation. Front Ecol Environ 5:153–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hedberg P, Saetre P, Sundberg S, Rydin H, Kotowski W (2013) A functional trait approach to fen restoration analysis. Appl Veg Sci 16:658–666CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hobbs RJ, Arico S, Aronson J, Baron JS, Bridgewater P, Cramer VA, Epstein PR, Ewel JJ, Klink CA, Lugo AE, Norton D, Ojima D, Richardson DM, Sanderson EW, Valladares F, Vilà M, Zamora R, Zobel M (2006) Novel ecosystems: theoretical and management aspects of the new ecological world order. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 15:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Holguin G, Vazquez P, Bashan Y (2001) The role of sediment microorganisms in the productivity, conservation, and rehabilitation of mangrove ecosystems: an overview. Biol Fertil Soils 33:265–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jones CG, Lawton JH, Shachak M (1994) Organisms as ecosystem engineers. Oikos 69:373–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kamali B, Hashim R (2011) Mangrove restoration without planting. Ecol Eng 37:387–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kleinebecker T, Poelen MDM, Smolders AJP, Lamers LPM, Hölzel N (2013) Fast and inexpensive detection of total and extractable element concentrations in aquatic sediments using Near-Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS). PLoS One 8(7):e70517CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  31. Lavorel S, Garnier E (2002) Predicting changes in community composition and ecosystem functioning from plant traits: revisiting the Holy Grail. Funct Ecol 16:545–556Google Scholar
  32. Laughlin DC (2014) Applying trait-based models to achieve functional targets for theory-driven ecological restoration. Ecol Lett 17:771–784CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Lewis RR III (2005) Ecological engineering for successful management and restoration of mangrove forests. Ecol Eng 24:403–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lewis RR III (2009) Methods and criteria for successful mangrove forest restoration. In: Perillo GME, Wolanski E, Cahoon DR, Brinson MM (eds) Coastal wetlands: an integrated ecosystem approach. Elsevier Press, Oxford, pp 787–800Google Scholar
  35. Macintosh DJ, Ashton EC, Havanon S (2002) Mangrove rehabilitation and intertidal biodiversity: a study in the Ranong mangrove ecosystem, Thailand. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 55:331–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Matsui N, Suekuni J, Nogami M, Havanond S, Salikul P (2010) Mangrove rehabilitation dynamics and soil organic carbon changes as a result of full hydraulic restoration and re-grading of a previously intensively managed shrimp pond. Wetl Ecol Manag 18:233–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McKee KL, Faulkner PL (2000) Restoration of biogeochemical function in mangrove forests. Restor Ecol 8:247–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Miller JA, Bestelmeyer BT (2016) What’s wrong with novel ecosystems, really? Restor Ecol 24:577–582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Morse NB, Pellissier PA, Cianciola EN, Brereton RL, Sullivan MM, Shonka NK, Wheeler TB, McDowell WH (2014) Novel ecosystems in the Anthropocene: a revision of the novel ecosystem concept for pragmatic applications. Ecol Soc 19:12–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Obolski U, Hadany L, Abelson A (2016) Potential contribution of fish restocking to the recovery of deteriorated coral reefs: an alternative restoration method? Peer J 4:e1732. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Perring MP, Standish RJ, Hobbs RJ (2013) Incorporating novelty and novel ecosystems into restoration planning and practice in the 21st century. Ecol Process 2:18–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pestana DF, Pülmanns N, Nordhaus I, Diele K, Zimmer M (2017) The influence of crab burrows on sediment salinity in a Rhizophoradominated mangrove forest in North Brazil during the dry season. Hydrobiologia 803:295–305Google Scholar
  43. Primavera JH, Esteban JMA (2008) A review of mangrove rehabilitation in the Philippines: successes, failures and future prospects. Wetl Ecol Manag 16:345–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Primavera JH, Agbayani RF (1997) Comparative strategies in community-based mangrove rehabilitation programmes in the Philippines. In: Hong PN, Ishwaran N, San HT, Tri NH, Tuan MS (eds). Proceedings of Ecotone V, Community Participation in Conservation, Sustainable Use and Rehabilitation of Mangroves in Southeast Asia. UNESCO, Japanese Man and the Biosphere National Committee and Mangrove Ecosystem Research Centre, Vietnam, pp. 229–243.Google Scholar
  45. Pülmanns N, Nordhaus I, Diele K, Mehlig U (2015) Artificial crab burrows facilitate desalting of rooted mangrove sediment in a microcosm study. J Mar Sci Eng 3:539–559CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ramírez-Elías MA, Ferrera-Cerrato R, Alarcón A, Almaraz JJ, Ramírez-Valverde G, de-Bashan LE, Esparza-García FJ, García-Barradas O (2014) Identification of culturable microbial functional groups isolated from the rhizosphere of four species of mangroves and their biotechnological potential. Appl Soil Ecol 82:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ruiz-Jaen MC, Aide TM (2005) Restoration success: how is it being measured? Restor Ecol 13:569–577CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Selvam MM, Kathiresan K (2010) Beneficial bacteria from soil of a tropical mangrove. Asian J Microbiol Biotechnol Environ Sci 12:1–8Google Scholar
  49. Suding KN (2011) Toward an era of restoration in ecology: successes, failures, and opportunities ahead. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 42:465–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Taberlet P, Coissac E, Hajibabaei M, Rieberg LH (2012) Environmental DNA. Mol Ecol 21:1789–1793CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Thomsen PF, Willerslev E (2015) Environmental DNA – an emerging tool in conservation for monitoring past and present biodiversity. Biol Conserv 183:4–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tolu J, Gerber L, Boily J-F, Bindler R (2015) High-throughput characterization of sediment organic matter by pyrolysis–gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and multivariate curve resolution: a promising analytical tool in (paleo)limnology. Anal Chim Acta 880:93–102CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Twilley RR, Rivera-Monroy VH, Chen R, Botero L (1998) Adapting an ecological mangrove model to simulate trajectories in restoration ecology. Mar Pollut Bull 37:404–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vovides AG, Bashan Y, López-Portillo JA, Guevara R (2010) Nitrogen Fixation in Preserved, Reforested, Naturally Regenerated and Impaired Mangroves as an Indicator of Functional Restoration in Mangroves in an Arid Region of Mexico. Restoration Ecol 19:236–244Google Scholar
  55. Vovides AG, Bashan Y, López-Portillo JA, Guevara R (2011) Nitrogen fixation in preserved, reforested, naturally regenerated and impaired mangroves as an indicator of functional restoration in mangroves in an arid region of Mexico. Restor Ecol 19:236–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wabnitz CCC, Andréfouët S, Muller-Karger FE (2010) Measuring progress toward global marine conservation targets. Front Ecol Environ 8:124–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Walton ME, Le Vay L, Lebata JH, Binas J, Primavera JH (2007) Assessment of the effectiveness of mangrove rehabilitation using exploited and non-exploited indicator species. Biol Conserv 138:180–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EcologyLeibniz Centre for Tropical Marine ResearchBremenGermany
  2. 2.University of Bremen, Faculty 02 Biology/ChemistryBremenGermany
  3. 3.IUCN-SSC Mangrove Specialist GroupBremenGermany

Personalised recommendations