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Despite the considerable advancement of scientific knowledge on the functioning of floodplain ecosystems and the regulation of rivers there exist in Europe as yet very few instances where this knowledge has been translated into an operational scheme to restore functional floodplains.
Whereas river restoration has in recent years become a widely practised form of environmental enhancement in Western Europe, floodplain restoration is under-developed, being limited largely to a few small-scale demonstration sites. Why is this the case when floodplains represent some of the most species-rich and endangered ecosystems in Europe?
The explanation lies partly in the human activities which have contributed to the loss of functional floodplains in the past, such as settlement development, agricultural land use, flood defence and navigation.
Floodplain restoration places considerable demands on project managers and policy makers alike. Involving essentially a reconfiguration of the interaction between a river and adjacent low-lying land, floodplain restoration affects a wide range of institutions designed to secure a variety of private and public goods associated with water and land use. These institutions relate to water protection, nature conservation, flood defence, navigation, recreation, urban and rural development and the protection of historical landscapes, to name but a number of the most significant.
Restoring Floodplains in Europe addresses these complex institutional dimensions to restoring floodplains. Its purpose is to identify institutional drivers and constraints of floodplain restoration, to analyse how they affect the design and development of restoration schemes and to draw conclusions on ways of promoting floodplain restoration, at both the operational (project) and strategic (policy) levels.