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Nine recommendations for the implementation of more wetlands in the future

Researchers from Aarhus University, among others, have compared wetland programs in Denmark and Sweden over the past 35 years. It has resulted in nine recommendations for an improved implementation of wetlands.

2021.05.26 | Camilla Brodam

Photo: Lars Kruuse - AU Foto

Although natural wetlands make up only 6% of the total global land area, they are a significant part of the world's ecosystems. Over the past 200 years, the number of wetlands has been halved worldwide. In Denmark, more than 90% of the wetlands have disappeared, while the corresponding number for Sweden is 65%.

“Loss of wetlands is problematic. They have an important role to play as ecosystem. They serve as a habitat for flora and fauna, reduce nitrogen emissions, remove pollution and so on,” says postdoc Morten Graversgaard from the Department of Agroecology.

Compares Denmark and Sweden

Recently, together with colleagues from Denmark and Sweden, he published an article that provides a historical overview of wetland programs in Denmark and Sweden, respectively. 

"It is only within the last 35 years that the political side has really opened its eyes to the importance of these wetlands. Therefore, from a political point of view in Denmark, we have also experienced a number of high and optimistic goals in relation to utilizing wetlands as a quick way to reduce nitrogen emissions. Unfortunately, we can also see that every time political goals are set for how many wetlands are to be implemented and how much nitrogen is to be reduced, these goals are not achieved, neither in Sweden nor in Denmark. This shows that there is a need for more realism in policy development and / or new tools for the implementation of wetlands,” says Morten Graversgaard.

The historical review shows that in Denmark there has been a great focus on the nitrogen effects and their losses. Sweden, which started earlier than Denmark, has had a more multifunctional focus in their wetland programs, but has not had the same clear monitoring program of nitrogen effects as in Denmark.

“Our analysis shows a clear difference between the two countries' wetland programs. Denmark overlooks the multifunctional possibilities that exist in the establishment of wetlands, while Sweden does not calculate the nitrogen effects. Another difference is that Denmark have focused on the implementation of large areas of up to 2000 ha, while in Sweden only focuses on wading the more accessible areas, which is why they now face a challenge in the further implementation," explains Morten Graversgaard.

In Sweden, work has been done to implement many smaller areas, what is call mini-wetlands, by focusing on the areas that are either easily accessible or areas with the most cooperating parties. Therefore, they are now faced with having to implement larger wetlands where they may encounter greater resistance, or which are difficult to access.

Nine recommendations

According to the researchers, the development has shifted the focus from a local landscape strategy supported by the national government to a broader EU approach, where support through the EU rural development program is more utilised. This allows for different efforts in different areas, just as it opens up for better adapted policies and collaborations. However, according to the researchers, there is still a need for further development of the strategies, for implementing new wetland, maintaining existing ones, or restoring old wetlands.

"Our results show that it requires more advice and support from state, regional, and local authorities, as well as from agricultural organisations to ensure a more successful and cost-effective implementation of wetlands," says Morten Graversgaard.

Therefore, the researchers present nine recommendations for how to solve some of the limitations that may arise when implementing more wetlands in the future: 

  1. Increase advice, information, and support for landowners
  2. Involve landowners earlier in the process
  3. Invest in the long term, it takes a long time to implement wetlands if they are to be good
  4. Continue restoration of existing wetlands
  5. Quantify the wetlands' various ecosystem services and target them for future implementation
  6. Include different types of finances and compensation in the implementation. There must be incentives to achieve a large scale when it comes to voluntary schemes
  7. Monitor and coordinate the management of wetlands and the associated natural, environmental, and climate policies
  8. Use a more balanced mix of policy tools in the implementation of new wetlands
  9. Use more effort to find the most optimal places to implement wetlands in the landscape

“In general, there is a need for more advice and support from the state, regional, and local participants, just as it is also important that the agricultural organisations come on board. It cannot be stressed enough how important the co-operation between the political bodies and landowners is. In addition, politicians and decision-makers have to accept that it takes a long time from new political goals for the implementation of wetlands to being able to see the result of a restoration or implementation of new wetlands,” says Morten Graversgaard.

Additional information
We strive to ensure that all our articles live up to the Danish universities' principles for good research communication (scroll down to find the English version on the web-site). Because of this the article will be supplemented with the following information:
Funding:The research and the scientific article were made as part of Morten Graversgaard's Ph.D., which was part of the DNMARK project. DNMARK was a strategic alliance, which was funded by the Strategic Research Council - What is today called the Innovation Fund. (Ref. 12-132421)
Collaborators:Morten Graversgaard, Tommy Dalgaard, Mette Vestergaard Odgaard: Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University, Blichers Allé 20, P.O. Box 50, DK-8830, Tjele, Denmark 

Brian H. Jacobsen: Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen, Rolighedsvej 23, DK-1870, Frederiksberg C, Denmark 

Carl Christian Hoffmann: Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Vejlsøvej 25, P.O. Box 314, DK-8600, Silkeborg, Denmark

Charlotte Kjaergaard: SEGES, Landbrug & Fødevarer F.m.b.A., Agro Food Park 15, 8200, Aarhus N, Denmark

Neil Powell: Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

John A. Strand, Peter Feuerbach: Hushållningssällskapet Halland, Lilla Böslid, Eldsberga, Sweden

Karin Tonderski: Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Linköping University, Sweden
Read more:Graversgaard, M, Jacobsen, BH, Hoffmann, CC, Dalgaard, T, Odgaard, MV, Kjærgaard, C, Powell, N, Strand, J, Feuerbach, P & Tonderski, K 2021, 'Policies for wetlands implementation in Denmark and Sweden – historical lessons and emerging issues', Land Use Policy, bind 101, 105206. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2020.105206
Contact:Postdoc Morten Graversgaard, Deparment of Agroecologu, Aarhus University. Email:  Morten.Graversgaard@agro.au.dk

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