Worldwide, wetland ecosystems (e.g. peatlands, salt marshes, marine reefs) provide vital ecosystem services, representing a total value of 33 trillion US$ per year. However, despite increasing awareness of the ecological and socio-economical importance of wetlands, many have been either lost or degraded in the last three decades. Despite high costs invested in restoring wetland ecosystems (up to 1,000,000 US$/ha) success is generally below 50%.
Restoration is so difficult because wetland stability depends critically on self-facilitating feedback created by habitat modifying organisms that dominate these ecosystems, creating a ‘chicken-and-egg problem’. We propose to develop multipurpose Biodegradable Elements for Starting Ecosystems (BESE) that temporarily facilitates habitat modifiers, thereby bridging critical thresholds and enabling ecosystem development in degraded wetlands, thus creating a viable product for global application.