Ecological corridors, connecting science and politics: the case of the Green River in the Netherlands.
During recent decades, the ecological corridor has become a popular concept among ecologists, politicians and nature conservationists. However, it has been criticized from a scientific point of view. In this paper we question why this concept has been accepted so readily in policy and practice. We present a conceptual framework to analyse the rise of the concept, especially in the Netherlands. We have studied the Dutch literature from the period 1980-2005, including the main ecological journal Landschap (Landscape), policy documents and reports from the leading Dutch policy-orientated ecology research centre. Many actors, including politicians, stakeholders and scientists, were involved in the development of the ecological corridor and the related National Ecological Network on the national and regional levels. The involvement of these actors changed the character of the concept into the multifunctional 'robust corridor'. The ecological corridor was probably so influential because its vague and flexible character facilitated the coming together of various stakeholders and scientists. It also functions as a metaphor, applicable to well-known entities such as construction and transport. Finally, scientists from the policy-orientated research centre were able to link the concept to fundamental science, policy and practice. In some stages of the policy-defining process, however, conflicts arose between the proponents of scientific soundness and those of social robustness that reduced the role of scientists. Synthesis and applications. To make ecological concepts both scientifically sound and socially robust, several changes must take place in current interactions between ecology and society. First, during concept development it requires the existence of extensive, largely interactive peer groups with clearly defined relationships between scientists and non-scientists. Secondly, the concepts should be flexible and relatable to relevant knowledge, insights, values and practices. Thirdly, several feedback loops between science and non-science should be set up during the various stages of concept development and implementation.