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Coastal ecosystems experience dramatic changes as a consequence of temperature and sea level rise, nutrient accumulation, land-use change, massive exploitation of natural resources, and physical destructions due to storms or hurricanes. This has raised great concern about the future fate of species, populations, and communities; as well as on the potential consequences for ecosystem functioning and ecological services provided for human society. Understanding the underlying complex network of processes and feedback mechanisms driving organismic responses to these environmental changes, and improving our capability to evaluate and forecast future changes in higher hierarchical levels of the ecosystems is a key challenge for the coming decades. It requires new holistic approaches and transnational cooperation of experts working on the conservation, rehabilitation and management of such threatened ecosystems.

 

CREC selected mangroves as research system and will contribute to improve the scientific base for conservation, rehabilitation and management of coastal ecosystems (Fig. 1). We explicitly address complex key mechanisms to understand and forecast the effects of global and regional changes on the level of species and communities: (i) the effects of interacting environmental drivers (e.g. climate and land use), (ii) the effect of transient and non-equilibrium dynamics, (iii) combined changes in abiotic factors and biotic interactions, (iv) feedback mechanisms between hierarchical levels within ecological systems, and (v) feedback loops between environmental changes and the biotic response to them.

 

The objectives of the CREC network are:

  • To understand the complex linkages between selected wetland functions, ecosystem services, and indirect effects of climate change at organismal, population and community levels.
  • To develop and test scientifically sound methodologies for assessing long term changes of coastal ecosystems in order to provide effective tools for their rehabilitation and management.
  • To identify existing and potential conflicts affecting the human society, and emerging from the environmental changes in these particular regions.