Process Orientated Nature Conservation (PONC)
Pro Natura is a is a partner in the above project (PONC) within the EU Erasmus+ programme. This project aims to explore the possibilities of introducing or expanding management practices based on the wealth of ecological processes taking place around us. These processes have been increasingly suppressed in today’s modern landscapes, both in the urban landscape and in agricultural and forestry.
Is PONC the same as rewilding?
Both yes and no. In various contexts, the term ‘rewilding’ has been used – with the aim of making the landscape around us ‘wilder’. This has sometimes been interpreted as creating larger areas of ‘wilderness’ where humans may not have a significant presence. Much of the world, and perhaps especially Europe, consists of urban environments or areas used for agriculture and forestry. With this project, we want to investigate whether it is possible to enhance ecological processes even in utilised environments, close to people. All biodiversity is adapted to ecological processes. We want to try to provide more space for these processes in the everyday landscape, and make it a little ‘wilder’ even if this does not mean creating wilderness in its traditional sense. This, we believe, can have a major impact on our ability to conserve and enhance biodiversity at both the local and regional scale. Allowing more space for ecological processes would also make our landscapes more resilient and buffer – or perhaps even counteract – the effects of ongoing climate change.
How can we apply this?
To be able to apply a management approach based on ecological processes over large areas of the landscape in the future, it is also of the utmost importance that the management methods used are sustainable in the long term from both an ecological and economic perspective. Therefore, the project will also look at how management can be harmonised with the local or regional economy. This may include, for example, food production in a way that recognises natural processes or management of lake and river systems that prevents flooding while promoting biodiversity.
Ecological processes of importance in this context may include, for example:
- Grazing in different forms and with different types of animals – both large and small – that mimic grazing regimes in ‘natural’ grassland ecosystems. This type of grazing can be conducted in a way that allows a livestock farmer to survive economically while having a very positive impact on biodiversity.
- Measures in water systems that reduce the speed of water by, for example, the creation of wetlands, measures that make watercourses more meandering or that increase the amount of dead wood in aquatic environments. This in turn can lead to small, controlled floods but avoid large, devastating and uncontrolled floods.
- Measures that maintain or recreate the presence of exposed mineral soil in ways that resemble the effects of wind or trampling by large grazing animals. In these environments, bees, and other sand-dwelling insects, important for example for pollination, can then find places to make their nests.
This project aims at boosting and short-circuiting the learning process for professionals wishing to apply process-oriented nature conservation as a tool to create a wilder and more robust nature, intertwined with human activity. Wild and robust nature side-by-side with human activities will prove to be an invaluable tool to mitigate the consequences of climate change and to halt the loss of biodiversity.
The project will be divided into a series of steps:
- Identifying good practice in existing process-oriented nature projects and defining the driving forces behind successful projects.
- Application of process-orientated nature conservation principles to selected case studies (e.g. agricultural or urban areas).
- Identification stumbling blocks and solutions.
- Guidelines for stakeholder workshops.
- Handbook: how to apply process-orientated nature conservation management in practice.
The partnership includes six partners from four countries from different backgrounds and with origin, but all with experiences touching on process-oriented nature conservation and land management.
The project will run for 32 months starting on 1st December 2020.
PARTNERS (in addition to Pro Natura)
- Natuurinvest (coordinator) and Natuur en Bos have been working on issues in relation to public perception with predators in densely populated areas and sharing knowledge.
- Ark Nature has been working on rewilding approaches in the Netherlands for many decades.
- Fjällbete in Sweden have been working on holistic regenerative agriculture.
- Milvus Group has been working locally focusing on individual species’ initiatives to gain traction and acceptance for larger scale opportunities.
- Knepp Estate in England have a rewilding project in a very intensively managed agricultural landscape.