Marine or oceanic ecosystems comprise approximately three-fourth of the earth’s surface and provide some of the most fundamental ecological services that maintain health and stability on the planet including the cycling of nutrients, water, and gases.

Marine habitats comprise the largest of all ecosystems on earth and are often classified into four major zones. Coastal beaches, sand dunes, and rocky uplands are part of the intertidal zone as are estuaries, mangroves and salt marshes. The pelagic zone, further from shore but still with relatively shallow waters, is characterized by coral reefs, seagrass and shellfish beds. The benthic zone is deeper where temperatures fall due to a lack of sunlight and a nutrient-rich bottom supports a wide diversity of fauna. Finally, the abyssal zone is the cold, oxygenated, high pressure deep ocean where many invertebrates and fish live. (These last two zones are classified as oceanic)

Global threats to the coastal and marine ecosystems are overfishing and aquaculture, agricultural/industrial pollution, oil spills and waste disposal, habitat loss and fragmentation, tourism and recreation, and invasive species.


Cooperative Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Studies
The Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) is a research institute of the University of Miami located in the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS). CIMAS serves as a mechanism to bring together the research resources of the University with those of NOAA in order to develop a center of excellence in research that is relevant to understanding the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere within the context of the NOAA’s mission.

Ecosystem-Based Management Tools Network
Human activities on land and in the ocean are changing coastal and marine ecosystems and threatening their ability to provide important benefits to society, such as healthy and abundant seafood, clean beaches, and protection from storms and flooding. Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) is an innovative management approach to address these challenges. It considers all ecosystem components, including humans and the environment, rather than managing one issue or resource in isolation.

NOAA Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research
CCFHR conducts research on the effects of coastal habitat change and restoration on living marine resources such as fish, marine mammals, and protected species. CCFHR has laboratories at both Beaufort, N.C. and Kasitsna, AK. The Center focuses research on injured habitats and communities, and on estimating natural and human induced mortality, growth, and reproduction of living marine resources.

NOAA Coastal and Ocean Resource Economics
The Coastal and Ocean Resource Economics (CORE) Program conducts marine-related socioeconomic research for a wide variety of applications and geographic areas. CORE projects include state-of-the-art socioeconomic monitoring in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the first-ever nationwide estimate of participation rates in marine-related recreation activities, an extensive beach valuation effort in Southern California, and many other research activities. The links below provide background on CORE, as well as a complete description of the program.

NOAA Coastal Services Center – Coastal Ecosystem Restoration
The systematic approach to restoration recommended here has evolved through years of experience in designing, implementing, and monitoring restoration projects, and informed by readings, discussions with colleagues, and a review of coastal restoration efforts across the United States.

NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Conservation Program supports effective management and sound science to preserve, sustain and restore valuable coral reef ecosystems.

NOAA Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program
NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program (DARRP) collaborates with other agencies, industry, and citizens to protect and restore coastal and marine resources threatened or injured by oil spills, releases of hazardous substances, and vessel groundings.

NOAA Fisheries Restoration Center
The NOAA Restoration Center is the focal point for marine and estuarine habitat restoration within NOAA. The Restoration Center (housed in the National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Habitat Conservation) performs restoration pursuant to federal legislation and improves the state of restoration ecology and habitat management.

NOAA Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management
The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), provides national leadership, strategic direction, and guidance to state and territory coastal programs and estuarine research reserves. The Office further works with state and territory coastal resource managers to develop a scientifically-based, comprehensive national system of marine protected areas (MPAs) and supports effective management and sound science to protect, sustain and restore coral reef ecosystems.

NOAA Office of Response and Restoration
NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) protects coastal and marine resources, mitigates threats, reduces harm, and restores ecological function. The Office provides comprehensive solutions to environmental hazards caused by oil, chemicals, and marine debris.

NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve System
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is building a Habitat Restoration Strategy to provide the scientific basis and technical expertise to restore, enhance and maintain estuarine ecosystems. The plan will develop and transfer effective approaches to identify, prioritize, restore and monitor degraded or lost coastal habitat. The strategy uses a partnership approach coupled with education and community involvement.

NOAA National Ocean Service
Coastal and estuarine habitats include marshes, forested wetlands, oyster reefs, seagrass beds, beaches, tidal streams and riparian forests. These habitats are vital not only for fish, birds and other wildlife, but for human communities as well. They help to protect against flooding, improve water quality, provide recreational opportunities, and support commercial fisheries and tourism.

NOAA Restoration Portal
NOAA Restoration References is a gateway to detailed NOAA restoration publications (excluding journal articles), Web sites, audiovisual materials, and case studies. The site is organized according to four thematic areas and includes the capability to find a specific NOAA reference.

World Wildlife Fund Global Marine Program
WWF’s Global Marine Programme focuses its activities on the most significant threats facing the marine environment today, and where WWF has the expertise to provide solutions for the future.
Our team of marine scientists, policy experts, economists, lawyers, and communications experts work in more than 40 countries, from polar ice caps and highly productive upwellings, to coral reefs, mangrove forests, and recently discovered deep-sea habitats.


Science-Based Restoration Monitoring of Coastal Habitats: Volume 1 & 2, by Thayer et al, contains a framework for the creation of a monitoring plan, including an explanation of where monitoring fits into the restoration process, steps to create a monitoring plan, and important information that should be considered when monitoring specific habitats. The second volume contains detailed discussions of the habitats and their characteristics, an inventory of coastal restoration monitoring programs, an overview of federal legislation associated with monitoring, sample monitoring costs, and a discussion of socioeconomic issues associated with coastal habitat restoration.

Systematic Approach to Coastal Ecosystem Restoration (2003), by Diefenderfer et al, presents a systematic approach to coastal restoration projects in five phases: planning, implementation, performance assessment, adaptive management, and dissemination of results. Twenty features of the iterative planning process, applicable in a variety of coastal habitats, are synthesized from restoration project experience and the literature.

Ecological Restoration of Aquatic and Semi-Aquatic Ecosystems in the Netherlands (2003), edited by Nienhuis and Gulati,  presents the state of the art of aquatic and semi-aquatic ecological restoration projects in The Netherlands. Starting from the conceptual basis of restoration ecology, the successes and failures of hundreds of restoration projects are described.

Coastal and Marine Ecosystems & Global Climate Change: Potential Effects on U.S. Resources (2002), by Kennedy et al, explores the hazards climate change will pose to delicate marine life. The key conclusions of the report include temperature changes, changes in precipitation and sea-level rise, altered patterns of wind and water circulation in the ocean environment as well as changes in ocean circulation patterns.

Restoring and Protecting Marine Habitat: The Role of Engineering and Technology (1994), Committee on the Role of Technology in Marine Habitat Protection and Enhancement, National Research Council, offers a complete, highly readable assessment of how scientific knowledge and coastal engineering capabilities can be more effectively used to protect and restore marine habitat.


An Overview of Long-term Coastal Restoration Projects

Coast in Crisis: Protecting Wildlife from Climate Change and Sea Level Rise

Coastal Restoration Now . . . What’s working? What do we need?

What was Natural in the Coastal Oceans?

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