Many marine populations and ecosystems have experienced strong historical depletions, yet reports of recoveries are increasing. Here, we review the growing research on marine recoveries to reveal how common recovery is, its magnitude, timescale and major drivers. Overall, 10-50% of depleted populations and ecosystems show some recovery, but rarely to former levels of abundance. In addition, recovery can take many decades for long-lived species and complex ecosystems. Major drivers of recovery include the reduction of human impacts, especially exploitation, habitat loss and pollution, combined with favorable life-history and environmental conditions. Awareness, legal protection and enforcement of management plans are also crucial. Learning from historical recovery successes and failures is essential for implementing realistic conservation goals and promising management strategies.
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