Ian emphasises that reef restoration should not be seen as a quick fix to guarantee reef resilience, but more as a tool to be used alongside other strategies aimed at reducing external stressors.
“While restoration provides us an opportunity to bring back some of these really important habitats, it is also a reminder that the best way to restore things is to not destroy them in the first place. It’s important to protect what’s left because it’s very expensive and difficult to restore ecosystems,” he says.
Although promising, recovering ecosystems is a complicated approach. In some cases, reviving a depleted resource is not possible, and even when it is unfavourable outcomes may occur.
“You might do an awesome wetland restoration project but then you accidentally provide a really great habitat for mosquitos. That’s why research is so important, because we are still working it out in the marine environment. There’s a lot to consider and it takes all sorts of different disciplines working together to figure it out,” Ian says.
For Ian, the challenge of reef restoration inspires passion.
“What a great thing to do with your life, to try and repair this beautiful world under the sea and bring it back so we’ve got something for future generations.”
Dr Ian McLeod
Ian has completed extensive work on reefs, with his shellfish restoration research winning the 2020 Eureka Prize for Applied Environmental Research. He is the Assistant Director of TropWATER and Assistant Program Director for the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program.