From Iron Curtain to Green Belt: Considering Central Europe as a Mnemonic Ecosystem

Publication Title

Society and Natural Resources

Document Type


Department or Program

Environmental Studies

Second Department or Program

Latin American Studies

Publication Date



biodiversity conservation, Central Europe, environmental history, landscape perception, memory, militarized landscapes, novel ecosystems, restoration


Since its institutional formulation in the late 1980s, the idea of ecological restoration has been debated and refined. More recently, the concept of novel ecosystems has challenged scholars to consider how history, human activity, and dynamic systems intersect with restoration values. But what role do restoration projects have in layered landscapes where meanings are many and the past still hurts? We bring cultural questions around memory to bear on the concept of novel ecosystems and ask how conservation might need to shift in response. We focus here on the Iron Curtain borderlands of central Europe to suggest that the history, human impacts, and changes in these lands may be understood as mnemonic ecosystems. We argue that more fully considering the mnemonic role of restored landscapes encourages greater consideration of local people’s perspectives and concerns, improves conservation outcomes in the long-term, and sustains the landscape’s diverse functions.


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