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Developing a coherent narrative for conserving freshwater and wetland habitats: experiences in the UK

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The interface between biodiversity and water management (i.e., conserving freshwater and wetland biodiversity) is a complex area in which to operate. The clash of decision‐making cultures arising from the separate evolution of biodiversity and water legislation and policy creates tensions that are not easily resolved. The complexity of the human pressures and stresses acting on freshwater and wetland ecosystems, and the multiplicity of specialisms and stakeholders required to address them, increase the challenges of working at this interface. There are therefore many people who need to have a common view of what we as a society are trying to achieve for freshwater ecosystems, and how each interested party best contributes to achieving this. There is a critical need for an ecological narrative that cuts through the legislative, operational, and technical complexity, providing a rationale for how biodiversity and water management can work together to achieve their respective objectives. Narratives provide an important function in circumstances where cultural mindsets drive decision making. They encourage decision making to be approached from a more holistic and strategic perspective without attempting to prescribe the outcome at a local level. The concept of natural ecosystem function provides a common language within which biodiversity and water objectives can be framed, and a coherent narrative has been developed in England with this concept at its heart. Allowing water to move through catchments as naturally as possible, in the most natural condition possible, lies at the heart of both biodiversity‐ and water‐based aspirations for freshwater and wetland ecosystems. WIREs Water 2017, 4:e1189. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1189

An ecologically based decision‐making hierarchy for generating shared biodiversity and water goals.
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The role of the English freshwater and wetland habitat narrative in specific workstreams supporting greater harmony in biodiversity and water decision making. WFD, Water Framework Directive; GB, Great Britain; SSSI, Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
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Water and Life > Nature of Freshwater Ecosystems
Water and Life > Stresses and Pressures on Ecosystems
Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness

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