New Literature Review: Time to cash in on positive interactions for coral restoration – Author Interview

A few months ago, we announced that PeerJ is now formally accepting a few new article types. You can choose from the following article types when starting your submission:

We are thrilled to report that last week we published our first Literature Review article following this announcement. The article is titled “Time to cash in on positive interactions for coral restoration” and highlights key positive species interactions that managers and restoration practitioners should utilize to facilitate the restoration of corals.

This is a particularly timely review with plenty of real-world applications as live coral cover continues to decline and resources are limited to restore coral populations. We interviewed author Elizabeth Shaver to find out more about the process of conducting this kind of research.

PJ: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Elizabeth Shaver: Sure! I’m a PhD Candidate in the Marine Science and Conservation Division of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. My dissertation research focuses on the community ecology of Caribbean coral reefs, with a specific focus on understanding how multiple stressors (particularly predation and climate change) affect coral health and success.

My graduate advisor and co-author on this paper, Dr. Brian Silliman, is the Rachel Carson Associate Professor of Marine Conservation Biology. His research broadly addresses salt marsh community ecology and coastal restoration and resilience.

PJ: Can you briefly explain the research you published in PeerJ?

Previous research in our lab has shown that positive species interactions, like facilitations or mutualisms, can be used specifically in the restoration designs of salt marshes and can significantly increase marsh grass yields with no added costs or time. Since coral reefs are declining across the globe and restoration is now being used as a major strategy to mitigate these losses, we decided to apply these ideas to coral restoration in hopes of starting the conversation of using ecological knowledge in the design phase.

To do this, we reviewed the literature and identified 6 broader areas where coral restoration practitioners or managers can begin to use naturally-occurring positive interactions: trophic facilitation, mutualisms between corals and other organisms, long-distance positive interactions with nearby habitats, positive density-dependent effects, positive legacy effects, and biodiversity relationships with ecosystem function.

PJ: What were some of the challenges with writing a Literature Review on this subject?

One of the big challenges is that the literature on coral reef ecology seems almost endless, so much research is produced and published on so many aspects of this important habitat. Depending on the content, overall message, or aim of the paper, researchers can use very different wording to describe positive species interactions, and species interactions that are good for corals (what we were looking for) can be hidden because of negative effects for other species in that study. For these reasons, I’ve been gathering pertinent literature for several years in addition to doing literature searches in databases such as Web of Science.

PJ: How would you describe your experience of our submission/review process?

Submitting a manuscript to PeerJ was a wonderful and refreshing experience. I found the online submission process to be so straightforward and easy. All of the staff I worked with through checks and proofing were fast and helpful.

Since PeerJ is an open-access journal, I feel confident that my audience – which are coral restoration practitioners – will be better served by this work as they’ll have better access to this paper and its ideas.

To others looking to submit review papers with the intent to reach a much broader audience, I’d highly recommend submitting to PeerJ.

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