This paper provides data on the changing character of river restoration within one country within a single policy and legislative framework. The information gathered was based on web searches, meetings and questionnaire responses with organizations and individuals working as environmental policy developers, stakeholders and practitioners of catchment management and river restoration. The paper utilizes this information to explore generic issues promoting and constraining a move to integrated catchment scale river restoration. Catchment scale river restoration was defined as ‘any river restoration activity that singly, or in combination, restores natural catchment processes and a naturally functioning ecosystem and brings benefit or environmental services to the whole catchment and not just to the site of restoration’.
The river restoration project data compiled showed that the number of projects in Scotland is on a strong upward trajectory, but the number of catchment scale projects is still limited. The data also showed a trend towards a range of underpinning reasons for river restoration. Traditionally the reasons for river restoration in Scotland have been strongly fisheries focussed, with another key driver being biodiversity conservation. Sustainable flood management and climate change adaptation are seen as emerging drivers of river restoration. In terms of the individuals interviewed, most appreciated that river restoration can bring about multiple benefits and should be underpinned by a good understanding of catchment processes.
Our overall assertion based on our study is that unless there is a fundamental paradigm shift, a change in the nature and level of funding for river restoration and a single organization is given overall authority to direct river restoration. ‘business as usual’ will continue and the benefits of catchment scale river restoration will be limited. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.