Sea & Coastal Research

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Procect : Sharing knowledge and management approaches in coastal zones. The case of the Wadden Sea

Project details

Acronym : No acronym available
Full project name : Sharing knowledge and management approaches in coastal zones. The case of the Wadden Sea
Initiating organisation : University of Groningen
Project leader : J.A.A. Swart
Supporting organisation(s)-
Financing :
Project number : 83910150
Start date : Jan 01, 2009
End date : Dec 31, 2013


Programme :ZKO - Carrying Capacity: Line 1 - National Programme Sea and Coastal Research (ZKO) - Carrying Capacity: Line 1 - Policy-relevant Research
Main project :-


Description :

The Wadden Sea area is recognized as a wetland of international importance and is highly protected. However, the area has also been the subject of many conflicts concerning, e.g., embankments, gas exploitation and shellfish fishery. Often different interests and perspectives on nature, sustainability and human intervention are key issues in these debates and they have led to stalemates and postponements in decision-making. Clearly, the combination of natural processes and human interests requires a sophisticated balance in decision-making and the involvement of multiple scientific disciplines, stakeholders and national and international legislative frameworks. In this study we analyse applied modes of participative governance and knowledge production in the Wadden Sea as a case study of integrated coastal management.

Science is often seen as an independent source of information that can overcome particular interests and facilitate rational decision-making. However, it is now widely recognized that many conservation conflicts may be considered as unstructured problems, characterized not only by disagreement among stakeholders but also among scientists. Lack of data, the time-consuming character of ecological research, the low predictability power of ecological sciences because of the nonlinear behavioural characteristics of many ecosystems, and competing paradigms in ecology may contribute to this internal scientific disagreement. Policy strategies that are based on scientific considerations may therefore easily fail, as they do not take into account that scientific insights often have a provisional character and are often divided along paradigmatic lines and interests. The inevitable lack of definitive scientific answers may even fuel societal unrest.

The recognition of the interweaving of scientific and societal perspectives implies strategies that produce knowledge that fits the context of its application and facilitates mutual interactions between lay people, stakeholders, conservationists, experts and policymakers. The challenge of this project is to take into account the societal and ecological complexity of the Wadden Sea and to organize a transparent and fruitful exchange of perspectives and knowledge between actors. We aim to develop procedures for dealing with the societal and ecological complexity and uncertainty of the Wadden Sea, making use of the concept of ?natural boundaries?. This concept aims to establish boundaries of human activity guided by a prior set of natural goals. We think that this can be accomplished fruitfully by ?knowledge sharing networks? of actors that facilitate the exchange and production of knowledge, as well as the articulation of visions and interests in a mutually respectful way. Such networks already exist in rural areas. They are organized at a local level and supported by knowledge-producing institutions, e.g. universities. In the case of the Wadden Sea, local networks might be possible for concerns such as seal and bird disturbance, dynamic dune restoration, or fairway deepening. Because of the complex decision-making structure, such networks should be linked to already existing, regional, national and international networks of corporate and governmental institutions in the area.

We hypothesize that networks, consisting of both local and non-local networks, will contribute to a socially and ecologically successful policy. Accordingly, our main research question concerns the options and conditions under which successful knowledge-sharing networks might function in the case of the Wadden Sea. The research consists of two strongly related subprojects: a PhD project on governance and knowledge exchanges and a post-doc project that studies actor groups which deliberate on nature conservation. The research will use several methodologies, such as a literature search on theories of governance and knowledge production, interviews with key actors, and an analysis of the structure and function of already existing knowledge-sharing networks in rural areas, current or potential conflicts in the Wadden Sea, and how actors actually exchange knowledge and visions in concrete affairs of conservation.


Source: NWO.