Master Data SFR
The global loss of coastal habitats has significantly reduced the availability of intact ecosystems to serve as reference systems for marine restoration and conservation, posing a challenge for establishing ecological baselines to evaluate restoration and conservation success. In the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand, extensive subtidal mussel reefs once played a critical role in maintaining the health of the system. However, due to large-scale exploitation, degradation of the surrounding ecosystem, and a lack of protection, these reefs have failed to recover naturally, leaving only a few remnant subtidal reefs at risk of further exploitation. This study compared mussel reef structure and large mobile species assemblages at natural remnant and restored mussel reefs in the Hauraki Gulf to evaluate their potential as reference sites for restoration and conservation efforts. Remnant and restored mussel reefs exhibited similar structure, however the proximity of remnant reefs to complex rocky-reef habitats resulted in higher mobile species diversity and abundance, facilitating a wider range of ecological interactions. This study supports the use of remnant reefs to assist with the evaluation of mussel reef restoration, which can help recover some of the lost biodiversity and underscores the importance of conserving the remaining mussel reefs in the region.