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The Importance of Social Learning in Restoring the Multifunctionality of Rivers and Floodplains

Claudia Pahl-Wostl, University of Osnabrück


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Those involved in floodplain restoration have to cope with historical conflicts between human and ecosystem needs. The topic is of high importance in Europe due to the European Water Framework Directive that requires restoration and/or maintenance of a “good ecological status of aquatic ecosystems.” However, the seeming trade-off between flood protection and floodplain restoration may change due to a shift in the water management paradigm toward more integrated approaches, in contrast to the command and control approach of the past. This shift in paradigm is summarized in the guiding principle for water management in the Netherlands “Living with floods and give room to water” rather than “Fighting against water.”

The paper discusses the role of social learning in the transition toward the adaptive management of floodplains and rivers that is required to restore and maintain multifunctional riverine landscapes. In addition to the uncertainties resulting from our limited knowledge about the complex spatiotemporal dynamics of floodplains, we have to take into account the ambiguities that arise as a result of the different perceptions of stakeholders.

Key words

conflict resolution; social learning; adaptive management; participatory modeling; floodplain restoration

Copyright © 2006 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087