Governing marine ecosystem restoration: the role of discourses and uncertainties

Kristen Ounanian*, Eira Carballo-Cárdenas, Jan P.M. van Tatenhove, Alyne Delaney, K.N. Papadopoulou, Christopher J. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-144
JournalMarine Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Governance challenges
  • Human intervention
  • Motivations
  • Restoration approaches
  • Uncertainty


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