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The changing nature of river restoration

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River restoration is a rapidly maturing focus of scientific and practitioner activity, which draws on a long history of intervention in watercourses for varied economic and social reasons, and which reflects a changing dynamic in the wider relationship between nature and society. This review provides a brief analysis of international literature to assess changes in the drivers of river restoration and the effect of legislative drivers on the nature of river restoration projects. In the UK and Europe, the period after the implementation of the Water Framework Directive is marked by a clear shift to a more ecological framing of river restoration. The increasing ecological focus of stated goals for restoration, and its use as a tool to fulfill legislative requirements, places a greater emphasis on the need for appropriate restoration design, monitoring, and appraisal to clearly demonstrate the ecological benefits of restoration projects. The role of restoration as a community‐based activity is increasingly important, and citizen science monitoring frameworks, together with reanalysis of existing datasets provide an opportunity to increase the knowledge‐base supporting river restoration, and to integrate restoration motives and drivers with project design and evaluation. Blended participatory approaches and an ecosystem goods and services approach encourage this kind of integration, but will be effective only if conflicts between stakeholders with differing worldviews and objectives can be identified and managed.

This article is categorized under:

  • Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness
Rapid rise in references to river restoration in the academic literature using searches from Google Scholar.
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Changes in motivation in the focus of the literature before and after EU Water Framework Directive.
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Changes in the focus of river restoration articles in Google Scholar.
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Proportion of keywords that appear alongside river restoration terms in the international literature. Data from Google Scholar.
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Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness

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