Synergistic benefits of conserving land-sea ecosystems

Rachel R. Carlson, Luke J. Evans, Shawna A. Foo, Bryant W. Grady, Jiwei Li, Megan Seeley, Yaping Xu, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs interact in tropical regions throughout the world. These ecosystems exhibit strong synergies, as the health of each ecosystem supports the functioning of adjacent habitats. We present a global spatial analysis of mangrove, seagrass, and reef communities, identifying regions where these habitats co-occur. While only an estimated 18% of interaction zones are covered by protected areas, boundaries between mangroves, seagrasses, and reefs represent areas of high conservation efficiency, where benefits of conservation amplify synergistically as land-sea ecosystems are jointly managed. We discuss four types of conservation efficiencies in these coastal ecosystems: (1) increased resistance to disturbance through inter-ecosystem feedbacks, (2) high biodiversity within small geographic areas, (3) habitat portfolio effects giving rise to climate refugia, and (4) synergistic ecosystem services, where building one ecosystem service inherently increases others. Given these synergistic benefits, global campaigns to expand marine and terrestrial protection should focus on the tightly connective interface between mangroves, seagrasses, and reefs, in order to more efficiently build resilience within and between these habitats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01684
JournalGlobal Ecology and Conservation
StatePublished - Aug 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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