Collaborative planning in natural resource management – the case of regulation of nitrogen in the agri-environment

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterResearch

Background and aim:
Environmental issues have been regulated through statutory planning since the 1970s in most OECD countries. After decades with focus on centralized, top-down oriented approaches in environmental planning and regulation, collaborative and participatory bottom-up oriented planning approaches are gaining momentum. The aim of this paper is to test a collaborative planning approach in the regulation of nitrogen in the farming sector. The overarching question is whether this regulation can be organised locally rather than by general, national rules. The benefits by adopting a local approach is that local knowledge on, e.g. farming practices, soil, water and climate, can feed into the regulation process, making general rules less important, maybe even obsolete.

The planning approach adapted for the study was inspired by concepts of collaborative planning in urban areas and various other concepts of participatory environmental planning. The approach was tested simultaneously in six case areas of rural Denmark, each comprising small watersheds (20-76km2). The strategic aim was to reduce the loss of nitrogen from farms to the aquatic environment. The planning process consisted of two stakeholder workshops bracketing a scenario formulation process. As decision support a fine-scaled nitrogen leaching model applied in an interactive GIS platform was developed. Stakeholders comprised farmers, civil servants from municipalities, NGOs, farm extension services, private enterprises and interested citizens. At the first workshop stakeholders gave inputs to scenarios in which land use and land cover changes were simulated, and the resulting loss of nitrogen was estimated. At the second workshop the scenarios were presented and discussed. Success criteria for this planning procedure comprised: stakeholders became engaged in a dialogue, provided inputs to the scenarios, and accepted the premises; they followed presentations in the second workshop and commented on the outcomes.

The six case processes gave different outcomes in terms of success of formulating solutions. They differed in the degree of collective understanding of the aim, in the level of conflicts internally among stakeholders, and in the degree of cooperation and the sense of accomplishment of win-win situations. Each case area had a unique situation, but in general the more successful case areas had a strong existing network, accomplished a common understanding of the target, could keep conflicts at a low level, and managed to work collaborative towards win-win situations.

The success of the collaborative planning process in our case areas depends on, e.g, existing networks and sense of place-attachment. In the best cases there is a basis for initiating concrete projects, in the worse cases the process suffer from conflicts at several levels. Conclusively, given the right conditions of communication and collaboration, hard environmental problems can be solved by bottom up approaches.

This work is partly funded by the Strategic Research Alliance DNMARK: Danish Nitrogen Mitigation Assessment: Research and Know-how for a sustainable, low-Nitrogen food production (2013–2017) funded by The Danish Council for Strategic Research.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2017
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventInnovative solutions for sustainable management of nitrogen - Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Duration: 26 Jun 201728 Jun 2017


ConferenceInnovative solutions for sustainable management of nitrogen
LocationAarhus University
Internet address

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