Thought of sharing this piece of an essay that I had done as a part of my curriculum in Bangor University. I think a lot can be learned from the ‘LIFE’ projects – the financial instrument of the EU for nature conservation and mitigation projects pertaining to climate change.
The projects like Anglesey and Llyn Fens LIFE Project work on the principle of ecosystem approach (Angleseyandllynfens.com, 2015) and have been fairly successful. Wetland restoration presents a good example of making use of an ecosystem approach orienting goals for wetland conservation and sustainable development in alignment with the principles stated by the Convention of Biological Diversity (Cris et al., 2011). An ecosystem approach towards an ecosystem management can be broken down into five key steps which ensure that future management and restoration of wetlands occur with least possible hindrances (Shepherd, 2008):
Engagement of Stakeholders
There are benefits of bringing aboard people from different interest groups. By acquiring agreement on wetland restoration in a manner that satisfies stakeholders at an initial phase has helped avoid potential disputes. For a conflict-free management of wetlands, it is essential that people from different sectors – land management, from conservation organisations, from businesses involved with the wetlands, and from local administrative authorities – come together for cross-sector partnerships. A good example is that of peatlands in Caithness and Sutherland, where a huge controversy came to surface because of the forestry planting on the bogs; the matter was resolved by agreeing on a strategy devised with the help and cooperation from people involved in agriculture, wildlife, sporting interests and forestry. What makes public participation or engaging stakeholders important is that it ensures that the benefits and services along with the cost of damages are understood.
Understanding the function, structure and management
Biodiversity of a wetland acts as an important measure of its health as an ecosystem, and also supports the services that wetlands provide. A lot of research projects have been extending their works and findings to help construct the corroboration base for the benefits obtained from the wetlands, e.g., carbon sequestration and water quality. Restoration projects have been able to improve visitor experience by – delivering finer access and interpretation, organising programmes and events involving communities such as guided walks, and also via outreach programmes to schools.
Biodiversity restoration, which is a part of the wetland restoration, has been successful in drawing attention and resources to areas which are remote and economically underprivileged. The restoration projects under LIFE attract funding from the EU. Funding under Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been proven to be crucial in fortifying sustainable land management while being able to maintain livelihoods in remote and rural areas. Also, public investment through various NGOs has supported wetland restoration. A recovering and well managed wetland also has the potential to tap into larger economic resources with the aid of tourism.
Management that is attuned to space
For an effective restoration and management, the project should have an adaptive management over space. While some sites tend to be small and localised (e.g. Langland Moss), there are others that span extensively (e.g. Flow Country). A successful project needs to bring together partnerships of private and public sectors as and when required.
Peatlands are being studied and explored for their potential roles in food alleviation and water-quality regulation under future climate conditions with heavy rainfall, in fens as well as blanket bogs, thus encouraging projects to operate across the catchments in order to come up with best solutions.
Management attuned to time
Often projects have to be carried out under certain scenarios where the managers have an incomplete or imperfect knowledge, with uncertainties around (Andrade, 2011). These uncertainties may result from the way a wetland would respond to restoration methods, or the scale of impact caused by certain land management techniques as well as uncertainties regarding future climatic conditions. To overcome these hurdles, restoration projects have been collaborating with local contractors, and strive to gain local knowledge about the site and learn over time. This includes development of new machinery, if required, for re-profiling ditches, examining the ideal or best design of dams, etc. Working in close collaboration with local communities and land managers in order to resolve challenges while endorsing long-term resilience is essential for wetland restoration and management projects. An adaptive management over time ensures that the restoration techniques will be able to evolve with time and thus, shall be able to contribute in future restoration works as well. The MoorLIFE project is an example where intricate and sophisticated techniques were used for propagating Sphagnum moss (Moorsforthefuture.org.uk, 2012).
Here is a table of other wetland restoration projects, across the UK, that have worked, or have been working, through a similar approach as that of Anglesey and Llyn Fens LIFE+
Table : Various Wetland Restoration Projects across the UK
Wetland restoration and management projects such as the Anglesey and Llyn Fens LIFE+ Project follow integrated management of all the resources available – terrestrial, aquatic and other resources- in a manner that endorses conservation and sustainable use of the available resources in an equitable way (Cris et al., 2011). The restoration and management of wetlands under such a project promotes planning, discussions and measured actions. The process involved in these projects – of bringing a wetland, its inhabitants, the challenges and disputes along with the opportunities accompanied within, into focus – allows the project to become future-proof and address most of the potential challenges that may be encountered.
Over the last few years there has been a significant increase in the number of wetland restoration and management projects and the reasons have been attributed to advancement in techniques and methods for approaching and tackling the damages. More importantly, the wetland managers have now made a considerable progress in the field of managing wetland ecosystems in a manner that engages stakeholders and attracts partnerships at a scale that can deliver results. What makes restoring a wetland a successful attempt is making sure that economic and social aspects are addressed, so that the services and benefits of wetlands as an ecosystem are recognised and valued. The experience and knowledge gained by the wetland restoration projects, of the likes of Anglesey and Llyn Fens LIFE+ Project, if documented well and shared globally, can create awareness as well as prompt management actions that many of the wetlands all over the world deserve to have.
You can explore the official website for the LIFE programme at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/
Below are the references to the sources I have used