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Do the Principles of Ecological Restoration Cover EU LIFE Nature Cofunded Projects in Denmark?

Jonas Morsing, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen
Sally Ida Frandsen, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen
Henrik Vejre, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen
Karsten Raulund-Rasmussen, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05847-180415

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Abstract

Ecological restoration is becoming a main component in nature management; hence, its definitions and interpretations of the underlying principles are widely discussed. In Denmark, restoration has been implemented for decades, and the LIFE Nature program has contributed to several large-scale projects. Our aim was to indicate tendencies in Danish nature policy by analyzing a representative sample of nature management projects. Using qualitative document analyses of official reports, we investigated how well 13 LIFE Nature cofinanced projects undertaken in Denmark fit with the principles of ecological restoration, as formulated in the nine attributes of the Society for Ecological Restoration’s Primer on Ecological Restoration, and based on the five myths of ecological restoration.

Objectives of the analyzed projects were divided into three categories: conservation of a single or a group of species; restoration of set-aside areas, mainly on abandoned agricultural land; and habitat management of Natura 2000 areas. Despite this grouping, improvement in living conditions for certain species associated with specific nature types was in focus in all projects.

No projects considered or fulfilled all nine attributes. It seems that attributes associated with fundamental requirements for the existence of target species or habitats were more often fulfilled than attributes associated with continuity of the ecosystem as a whole, which indicated a focus on ecosystem structures rather than on processes. We found that the two assumptions of a predictable single endpoint (the myth of the Carbon Copy) and that nature is controllable (the myth of Command and Control) were notably frequent in the Danish projects. Often, the target ecosystem was associated with a semicultural landscape, and management focused on keeping the vegetation low and preventing overgrowth of colonizing trees. The results indicated that nature policy in Denmark and the LIFE Nature program are based on a control paradigm, with the focus on structures rather than on processes. Further, the results revealed that the definition and interpretation of ecological restoration is ambiguous, and according to land use history, there is a need for concepts and approaches to be clearly defined.

Key words

benchmark; ecological restoration; human impact; LIFE Nature; Natura 2000; nature policy; semicultural landscapes; SER attributes
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087