Seagrass, saltmarsh and mangrove habitats are declining around the world as anthropogenic activity and climate change intensify. To be able to effectively restore and maintain healthy coastal-vegetation communities, we must understand how and why they have changed in the past. Identifying shifts in vegetation communities, and the environmental or human drivers of these, can inform successful management and restoration strategies. Unfortunately, long-term data (i.e. decades to hundreds of years) on coastal vegetated ecosystems that can discern community-level changes are mostly non-existent in the scientific record. We propose implementing DNA extracted from coastal sediments to provide an alternative approach to long-term ecological reconstruction for coastal vegetated ecosystems. This type of DNA is called 'environmental DNA' and has previously been used to generate long-term datasets for other vegetated systems but has not yet been applied to vegetation change in coastal settings. In this overview, we explore the idea of using sediment eDNA as a long-term monitoring tool for seagrass, saltmarsh and mangrove communities. We see real potential in this approach for reconstructing long-term ecological histories of coastal vegetated ecosystems, and advocate that further research be undertaken to develop appropriate methods for its use.
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- climate change