Roles of aesthetic value in ecological restoration : cases from the United Kingdom
Prior, Jonathan David
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Ecological restoration has been identified as an increasingly important tool in environmental policy circles, from reversing species loss to mitigating climate change. While there has been a steady rise in the number of research projects that have investigated social and ecological values that underpin ecological restoration, scholarship has predominantly been carried out at the theoretical level, to the detriment of engaging with real-world ecological restoration projects. This has resulted in generalised and speculative accounts of ecological restoration values. This thesis seeks to address this research gap through a critical analysis of the roles of aesthetic values in the creation and implementation of restoration policy, using three different case studies of ecological restoration at the landscape level in the United Kingdom. I employ interdisciplinary research methods, including semi-structured interviews, interpretive policy analyses, still photography, and sound recording techniques, to better understand the multi-sensorial qualities of ecological restoration. I trace the role of aesthetic value from the initial development of restoration policy through to the management of the post-restoration landscape, considering along the way how aesthetic values are negotiated amongst other types of social and ecological values, how aesthetic values are measured, articulated, and projected onto the landscape by restoration policy makers, and the ways in which aesthetic values are applied through design and management strategies across each site. Throughout the thesis, I engage with a number of current research themes within the ecological restoration literature that intersect with aesthetic value, such as the use of ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ species in landscape restoration, and the procedure through which landscape reference models are selected. I also address hitherto unasked spatial questions of ecological restoration, including an examination of the aesthetic relationships between a restoration site and adjacent landscapes, and the application of spatial practices to regulate certain forms of post-restoration landscape utility. I demonstrate that aesthetic values play a multitude of different roles throughout the restoration process, and ultimately show that as aesthetic values are captured and put to use to different ends through policy, they are inherently bound up with competing ethical visions of society-nature relationships.