Dean's Lecture Series - Brian Silliman

Restoration Revolution in Marine Ecosystems

Brian Silliman, Rachel Carson Distinguished Professor of Marine Conservation Biology

The UN has declared 2020-2030 the decade of ecosystem restoration. In response, nations around the world are setting ambitious targets for re-growing lost ecosystems. For restoration to answer this challenge, it must increase in efficiency quickly. In marine systems, the current paradigm prescribes restoring ecosystems by reducing environmental stress (for example, pollution) and avoiding competition between outplants.

Using field experiments and synthesis, Dr. Brian Silliman shows that designs that additionally focus on harnessing mutually beneficial species interactions have the potential to increase restoration yields and success 1-5x, at little or no extra cost, and greatly increase climate stress thresholds in outplants. These cost-reducing advances, along with industrialization of marine seed production and dispersal, can fundamentally change success of coastal habitat restoration worldwide. These advances, however, are just the beginning of what is needed.  

Dr. Silliman proposes the beginning of a new transdisciplinary field of ecosystem cultivation that, he argues, can subsume restoration science and catalyze an intellectual revolution that rapidly brings into reality widespread cultivation of ecosystems in both natural and human-dominated systems in the Anthropocene. 

This event was held Tuesday, May 11, 2021.

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About the Series

Dean Steelman is excited to announce the inaugural year of the Dean’s Lecture Series. These quarterly lectures are intended to highlight the exciting research at the Nicholas School, and engage interdisciplinary researchers in a discussion around innovative science. Invited lecturers may choose to present a big picture of their research program, or do a Research in Progress lecture – the goal is to share our innovation with our research community.