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Governing marine ecosystem restoration: the role of discourses and uncertainties

Kristen Ounaniana; Eira Carballo-Cárdenas; Jan P.M. van Tatenhove; Alyne Delaney; K. Nadia Papadopoulou; Christopher J. Smith

Governing marine environments has evolved from dominant interests in exploitation, allocation, conservation, and protection to restoration. Compared to terrestrial and freshwater environments, restoration of and in marine ecosystems presents a new mode of intervention with both technical and governance challenges. This paper aims to enhance understanding of the important factors at play in governing marine ecosystem restoration. Discourses of marine ecosystem restoration are an important factor which shape how the restoration activity is governed, as discourses structure how actors and coalitions define problems and their approaches to solutions. The article produces a conceptual model of the discourses of marine ecosystem restoration, built on two dimensions: (1) the degree of human intervention and (2) motivations for restoration. Together, these dimensions create four broad restoration discourses: “Putting Nature First,” “Bringing Nature Back,” “Helping Nature support Humans,” and “Building with Nature.” Moreover, marine ecosystem restoration is confronted with different forms of uncertainty, such as incomplete knowledge, unpredictability, and ambiguity, which must be managed by actors participating in restoration initiatives. The article's overall contribution is the synthesis of these components, which illuminates the specific governance challenges under various circumstances.

The original manuscript was received on 19 July 2018; accepted on 7 August 2018and published on 20 August 2018. This study was conducted within the frame of the projects MERCES (Marine Ecosystem Restoration in Changing European Seas), funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement No. 689518). The authors would like to thank James Aronson (Missouri Botanical Garden) for insightful discussions. This paper reflects only the authors' views and the funders cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained there in. 0308-597X/ © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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