Ecosystem Restoration in Europe: Can Analogies to Traditional Chinese Medicine Facilitate the Cross-Policy Harmonization on Managing Socio-Ecological Systems?

Sci Total Environ. 2019 Mar 20;657:1553-1567. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.11.192. Epub 2018 Nov 15.


EU's Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 sets a 15% restoration target. However, the understanding of restoration as a management tool remains ambiguous at EU and Member State levels. As a country with rich biodiversity but low GDP, a well-defined priority setting approach is key for Bulgaria. The "Methodological framework for assessment and mapping of ecosystem condition and ecosystem services in Bulgaria" proposes a transition towards ecosystem management and monitoring of the Socio-Ecological System (SES), to be embedded in the environmental policy framework. We extend the analogy between SES and the human body's system in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a way to inform restoration priority setting and development of restoration and monitoring tools at several levels: We apply the analogy and find that spatially explicit decision making on restoration, streamlined ecosystem monitoring and a number of other issues (green infrastructure, designation of protected areas, defragmentation and connectivity, cumulative impact assessment, etc.), are easier to understand, communicate, account for and manage. Ecosystem restoration is priority for China and the country has accumulated research and practical experience, including study of links between ecosystem management and the historical principles of Chinese philosophy. The Bulgarian and European approach to ecosystem based management can benefit from analogies to TCM. We derive policy recommendations by analogy, and illustrate them on the example of Natural Capital Accounting.

Keywords: Ecosystem based management and monitoring; Ecosystem restoration targets; Multi-parametric optimization of ecosystem services production; Socio-ecological system; Trade-offs; Traditional Chinese Medicine.