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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation