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Reclamation is the act of filling a wet or fully aquatic area with sediment to turn it into solid ground. Reclamation typically occurs on coral reefs, wetlands, mangroves, tidal flats, and shallow coastal waters. Oddly, many dictionaries describe reclamation as the conversion of wasteland into suitable land for habitation or cultivation. This false perception that coastal lands and waters are a wasteland illustrates the general lack of awareness that marine coastal waters are the most productive habitats on earth and shines light on why reclamation occurs so frequently.

Reclamation occurs along coasts all over the world, in countries large and small, to ‘make land’ for airports, hotels, industry, housing, and other land-based needs. Most often coral reef, seagrass and mangrove habitats are filled to create the new land. While land value may rise for this waterfront area, there is a significant loss of ecological value of these habitats in addition to the loss of economic value that could be derived from harvesting organisms that call these habitats home. Their loss affects the amount of habitat available to marine organisms and therefore the productivity of marine and coastal areas. While the localized impact might be small, the cumulative impact for a region can be significant and irreversible. Although there can be economic gains from converting the area to land beyond what is lost to fisheries, there is often a major shift from open access for subsistence and poor people to private ownership and profit.
Hotel in the background is built on filled up coral reef. Hurghada, Egypt (M. Kochzius)
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