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MILJØFORSK-Miljøforskning for en grønn samfunnsomstilling

RIPARAGRO: Restoring riparian zones on agricultural lands

Alternative title: RIPARAGRO: Restaurering av kantsoner på jordbruksarealer

Awarded: NOK 14.0 mill.

Project Number:


Project Period:

2024 - 2027


Partner countries:

In RIPARAGRO, we will investigate the structural, practical, and cultural barriers and opportunities related to restoring riparian zones to reduce runoff from agricultural areas. Riparian zones, which are the strips of land bordering streams and rivers, are essential for biodiversity and flood protection. They act as filters to prevent agricultural run-offs from entering water bodies. If the riparian zone becomes too large, however, we lose valuable arable land. Accordingly, there is often a conflict of interest between the demands for riparian zones and agriculture. We will investigate whether regenerative agriculture, which aims to improve soil health and the soil’s ability to retain water and nutrients, can compensate for narrow or even missing riparian zones. The main challenge of restoring riparian zones and improving soil health is not lack of knowledge about what needs to be done, but finding solutions that are acceptable to farmers, ecologists, and land management authorities. Environmental regulations in agriculture that include farmers' knowledge, perspectives, and cultural context have proven to be more effective and sustainable both socially and environmentally. However, we lack knowledge about the farmers' perspectives on riparian zones in Norway. We will co-create knowledge through interviews and workshops with farmers, ecologists and management authorities to uncover social, cultural, economic and historical barriers. This will help us find ways to restore riparian zones in agricultural areas. We will also explore whether regenerative agriculture can facilitate restoration strategies that various stakeholders can agree upon, and if regenerative agriculture affects riparian zone biodiversity through GIS modeling and ecological measurements. Through interdisciplinary research, RIPARAGRO will provide the government and management authorities a solid knowledge base about riparian zones and agricultural runoff issues.

RIPARAGRO will expose barriers to riparian restoration on farmlands and explore solutions from regenerative agriculture (RA), using the River Basin District (RBD) in Viken and Innlandet in Norway as case, and responding to the urgent issue of degraded ecosystems in riparian zones and connected watersheds. We address conflicting rationales and diverging experiences of meaning and values amongst stakeholders and collaborate with user groups throughout the project. Our objective is to co-create new knowledge and management recommendations with partners and stakeholders and solve acute societal needs through fundamental research in ecology, agronomy and cultural studies. RIPARAGRO provides an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary knowledge base that will facilitate ecologically, socially, culturally, and economically sustainable restoration of vital land areas under pressure. Riparian zones are the areas along rivers and streams, encompassing the interface between water, floodplain, and the area adjacent to the floodplain that are essential for the protection of biodiversity and avoid flooding. In Norway, only 3 % of the land is arable. Much of this is adjacent to waterways, and many rivers and streams have been channelized and their riparian zones encroached on or removed. There is a conflict of interest between restoring riparian zones and the use of this land. Dysfunctional riparian zones combined with climate change causes erosion and runoff, washing valuable soil away. We need to identify and understand the structural, practical, social and cultural obstacles and find actionable strategies that take both the ecological importance of riparian zones and the pressures on the agricultural sector into account. RIPARAGRO relies on co-creating knowledge through collaboration with farmers, ecologists, and river managers working in RBD Viken and Innlandet.

Funding scheme:

MILJØFORSK-Miljøforskning for en grønn samfunnsomstilling