Restoration and adaptive governance for social and ecological wellbeing

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Emille Boulot, Afshin Akhtar-Khavari

Publication Date:

This paper argues that the ontological and epistemological foundations of environmental law, which continue to disaggregate and commodify the “natural” world, can hamper restoration efforts at the landscape level. Law and governance arrangements for ecological restoration is still emerging globally with efforts to date largely concerned with the rehabilitation or remediation of discrete geographical areas, or the creation of services such as carbon sequestration. Such approaches largely reduce ecosystems to their components, undermining an appreciation of the overall complexity of these systems and result in the prioritisation of certain restoration goals over others. As ecological restoration is an adaptive, reflexive and systems approach guided by site characteristics and the relationship of the site with socio-ecological systems, it should necessitate long-term law and governance perspectives that are adaptive, account for uncertainty and imperfect understandings of ecosystem interrelationships and feedbacks. This paper examines adaptive governance in the context of ecological restoration. Adaptive governance recognises uncertainty as a structural and constant inevitability in complex systems and undertakes ongoing and continuous monitoring, evaluation and adjustment. It also recognises that legal regimes reflect values, narratives, and worldviews and aims to integrate multiple types and sources of knowledge and values. These characteristics accord well with an ecological restoration practice that recognises the complexity of ecosystem function and a plurality of values, not just those limited to natural resources and ecosystem services, but also aesthetics, sense of place, cultural heritage, recreation and economics. This paper argues that the development of restoration governance must situate itself in values-led decision-making processes and we examine the normative values behind the SER 2020 principles to unpack how they assist the governance of restoration.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program