Public policies for wetland implementation in Denmark and Sweden – historical lessons and emerging issues

Morten Graversgaard1, Tommy Dalgaard1, Carl Christian Hoffmann2, Brian H. Jacobsen3, Neil Powell4,5 , John Strand6, Peter Feuerbach6 and Karin Tonderski7


1 Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University, Blichers Allé 20, P.O. Box 50, DK-8830 Tjele, Denmark

2 Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Vejlsøvej 25, P.O. Box 314, DK-8600 Silkeborg, Denmark

3 Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen, Rolighedsvej 25, DK-1870 Frederiksberg C, Denmark

4 Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

5 Sustainability Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Coast 4558, Queensland, Australia

6 Hushållningssällskapet Halland, Lilla Böslid, Eldsberga, Sweden

7 Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Linköping University, Sweden


Natural wetlands used to cover a significant part of the rural landscape but these areas have been reduced significantly all over the world and so also in Denmark and Sweden. Since the 1980s’ efforts have been made to re-establish these wetlands. Findings from other studies suggest that compensation levels, efficiency, implementation approach and flexibility are key factors in a successful implementation. The analysis of the implementation in Denmark have shown that the original efficiency per ha was overestimated and the costs were underestimated. The political targets have been too optimistic for the last 30 years and continue to be so. The experience gained from previous implementation and the layout of the subsidy scheme has not been fully utilised due partly to a shift from national financing schemes (lumpsum) to a partly EU financed Rural Development Program (yearly payment over 20 years). Sweden started earlier and the programs have in more cases a more multifunctional purpose as in Denmark were N reduction effect is the main policy goal. The main barriers in the implementation of wetlands in Sweden have changed somewhat over time, and have included economy, land availability and institutional and governance barriers.

Looking at the two countries they both show a change from a focused on the local approach to a broad Rural Development Program approach where the efficiency per ha went down.

However, a large potential for more wetland implementation still remains in both countries. Consequently, the objective of this paper is to provide a comprehensive overview of the historical implementation of wetlands and related governance processes. This is carried out in order to illustrate barriers of why more wetlands have not been created and restored, and to illustrate the opportunities for future wetlands implementation. Details about lessons, impacts and learning outcomes from the two neighbouring countries will be reviewed to gain an overview of the systemic transformations needed to facilitate a more sustainable development.