Restoration of Natural and Semi-Natural Wetland Systems in Central Europe: Progress and Predictability of Developments


 Address correspondence to Ab P. Grootjans, Laboratory of Plant Ecology, P.O. Box 14, 9750 AA, Haren, The Netherlands


After almost 40 years of experience in wetland restoration in Central Europe in which vegetation changes have been monitored by means of permanent plots or vegetation maps, some light can be shed on the intrinsic dynamics of such ecosystems, showing the limits of restoration and constraints in its manipulation. Sometimes such constraints in the restoration process can be identified, mostly being constraints in nutrient availability or in the water regime, but unexpected changes can also be the result of intrinsic species fluctuations or invasive species. Unexpected vegetation developments are sometimes undesired, can be very persistent and may indicate that environmental conditions are not suitable for target communities. Unexpected developments also illustrate the limits in restoration ecology. Very often the restoration process simply proceeds along successional pathways we did not anticipate. Theories about such alternative pathways can be explored using prediction models, such as cellular automata, which can handle the results of biomonitoring very efficiently. Biomonitoring during 40 years, however, has also shown that a certain amount of unpredictability has to be taken for granted, both in natural wetlands and in areas under restoration.