Bogs, Birds and Berries in Belarus: the multi-scale dynamics of wetlands sustainability initiatives in a top-down context


Lucas Dawson (Stockholm University, Sweden)
Marine Elbakidze (Stokholm University, Sweden)
Anton Shkaruba (Estonian University of Life Sciences, Estonia)
Per Angelstam (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden)


Wetlands are complex social-ecological systems, which provide both important habitat for species, and multiple ecosystem services for people. This diversity of perspectives places new demands on multi-level and multi-sector participation in governance and management arrangements for conservation, sustainable use and restoration, which is also a requirement by EU policy documents. How can sustainable wetlands be achieved and managed in strong top-down governance contexts, such as in former Soviet republics? How relevant EU policy and management innovation is transferrable in this context? Using three case studies relating to wetland restoration (bogs), conservation (birds) and wild food production (berries) in Belarus, this study employs a complex systems approach to analyse core governance and management processes underpinning wetlands sustainability initiatives in Belarus. We identified five processes, viz. adequacy of plans and planning processes, garnering stakeholder support, the adequacy of several types of key inputs, management of activity rates, and the integration of adaptive learning and knowledge cycles. Although path dependent societal dynamics of the (post-)Soviet era continue to influence wetland systems, windows of opportunity precipitated the emergence of active participation among non-governmental actors. Major opportunities were identification of confluences of interest amongst stakeholders, as well as continued mutual integration of Belarus with the European and broader international community. Key constraints concerned institutional hierarchies, onerous regulations, “negativism”, and financing difficulties. Key strategies relating to perception management, risk mitigation, and learning are identified for reinforcing positive feedback loops relating to core processes.


Dawson, L., M. Elbakidze, M. Schellens, A. Shkaruba, and P. K. Angelstam. 2021. Bogs, birds, and berries in Belarus: the governance and management dynamics of wetland restoration in a state-centric, top-down context. Ecology and Society 26(1):8.