Restoration is becoming a vital tool to counteract coastal ecosystem degradation. Modifying transplant designs of habitat-forming organisms from dispersed to clumped can amplify coastal restoration yields as it generates self-facilitation from emergent traits, i.e. traits not expressed by individuals or small clones, but that emerge in clumped individuals or large clones. Here, we advance restoration science by mimicking key emergent traits that locally suppress physical stress using biodegradable establishment structures. Experiments across (sub)tropical and temperate seagrass and salt marsh systems demonstrate greatly enhanced yields when indi- viduals are transplanted within structures mimicking emergent traits that suppress waves or sediment mobility. Specifically, belowground mimics of dense root mats most facilitate sea- grasses via sediment stabilization, while mimics of aboveground plant structures most facilitate marsh grasses by reducing stem movement. Mimicking key emergent traits may allow upscaling of restoration in many ecosystems that depend on self-facilitation for persistence, by constraining biological material requirements and implementation costs.
Global-scale deteriorations in coral reef health have caused major shifts in species composition. One projected consequence is a lowering of reef carbonate production rates, potentially impairing reef growth, compromising ecosystem functionality and ultimately leading to net reef erosion. Here, using measures of gross and net carbonate production and erosion from 19 Caribbean reefs, we show that contemporary carbonate production rates are now substantially below historical (mid- to late-Holocene) values. On average, current production rates are reduced by at least 50%, and 37% of surveyed sites were net erosional. Calculated accretion rates (mm/year) for shallow fore-reef habitats are also close to an order of magnitude lower than Holocene averages. A live coral cover threshold of around 10% appears critical to maintaining positive production states. Below this ecological threshold carbonate budgets typically become net negative and threaten reef accretion. Collectively, these data suggest that recent ecological declines are now suppressing Caribbean reef growth potential.