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Stijn den Haan, Laszlo Pinter
The effective engagement of local communities is essential to safeguard the long-term success of ecosystem restoration efforts. However, research efforts on understanding the effectiveness of community engagement strategies has predominantly focused on the community-based restoration of tropical forests, which has left other ecosystems understudied, including freshwater wetlands which also harbor high levels of biodiversity and act as carbon sinks. By interviewing project managers, we explored community engagement strategies employed by nine previously completed freshwater wetland restoration projects across Europe, which were funded by the EU LIFE program between 2011 and 2015. Qualitative content analysis of these interviews revealed commonly-used consultative and co-productive typologies of community engagement strategies. Furthermore, the perspective of the project managers emphasized five most important community engagement strategies to support the long-term success of restoration projects. These included (i) partnering with local governmental bodies to build upon pre-existing networks of trust; (ii) effectively empowering local communities and integrating their knowledge in decision-making processes; (iii) using context-adapted, relevant education of key stakeholders on the benefits of restoring biodiversity; (iv) building effective personal relationships through one-on-one meetings; and (v) maintaining high levels of engagement by starting similar restoration projects in adjacent areas. Possible explanations for the effectiveness of these community engagement strategies in safeguarding restoration success are discussed using the Theory of Participation (Reed et al. 2018). These community engagement strategies may guide practitioners to enhance the long-term effectiveness of future wetland restoration efforts in Europe and beyond, for the benefit of the planet and its people.
Conference Presentation, SER2021
Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program