Restoring and “rewilding” islands that have been decimated by damaging invasive species provides benefits to not only the terrestrial ecosystem but to coastal and marine environments as well, researchers have found.
Linking land and sea through coordinated conservation efforts may offer unrealized and amplified benefits for biodiversity, human wellbeing, climate resilience and ocean health, and provides a microcosm for the untapped potential of ecosystem restoration on a larger scale. This new era of conservation focuses on the interconnectedness of all ecosystems, rather than pursuing individual pieces through siloed efforts.
A new perspective published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) titled “Harnessing island–ocean connections to maximize marine benefits of island conservation” recognizes the critical link between island and marine ecosystems and identifies island and near-shore marine environmental characteristics that promote strong linkages in these ecosystems around the world.
The study was done through a collaboration of researchers, non-profit conservationists, government agency representatives and others.
The result is a model for effective land-sea conservation and management decisions by governments, foundations, Indigenous peoples, local communities, NGOs and conservationists to harness the power of island-ocean connections that bolster ocean health.
According to Stuart Sandin, lead author of the study and a marine ecologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego:
“By applying this knowledge to islands worldwide, we can understand the marine benefits of island restoration projects and maximize returns for our conservation management investments for people, wildlife, and the planet.”
Penny Becker, a coauthor on the study and vice president of conservation for the nonprofit Island Conservation, added:
“Islands and oceans are connected–something many people living along coasts have long understood, depended on and managed holistically as a result. Linking efforts on land, including removing invasive species from islands, with marine restoration and protection offers a significant untapped opportunity to protect and restore both islands and coastal regions.”
They highlight six essential environmental characteristics that can guide prioritization of island-ocean restorations: precipitation, elevation, vegetation cover, soil hydrology, oceanographic productivity, and wave energy.
Learn more about the Island-Ocean Connection Challenge at www.iochallenge.org.