Process conservation as a nature conservation strategy

The strategy of current nature conservation that is oriented toward preserv­ing a historic character has recently been criticized as ‘unnatural’ because it misjudges the evolutionary, dynamic character of nature and ultimately protects only the species and biotopes of the historic landscape (Scherz – inger 1990, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997; Reichholf 1994). Nature conserva­tion, according to Reichholf, is fighting the wrong battle and is “a form of historic preservation”: “It wants to preserve ‘images of the landscape’. Anything that changes the familiar picture is reflexively fought against” (ibid). Here the historic preservation character of nature conservation is explicitly being questioned. This confirms the fears of the historic preser­vationists, who believe that acceptance of the processes of Verwilderung in urban-industrial spaces runs contrary to the interests of historic preserva­tion. Process-oriented nature conservation wishes to protect nature as much as possible in a state where it can freely develop and does not ad­dress preserving the remnants of history.

Nevertheless, there are points of alignment between process conserva­tion and historic preservation: First, it is not the case, at least in the most popular German understanding of process conservation, as described by Scherzinger who writes of the development of woodlands in the ‘open landscape,’ that a completely free development of nature is the goal. The goal, as in conventional nature conservation, is a ‘proper’ development of nature. This is oriented, furthermore, toward the historic character of the landscape, only in Scherzinger’s understanding it is not the cultural land­scape that is predominantly meant, but rather, within limits, the wild forest. In this way of thinking, current processes, such as the colonization of non­native species, are to be stopped because non-native species are not seen as an improvement but rather as a threat to native, i. e. traditional species di­versity. Locally extinct species, in contrast, may be reintroduced at great expense (Scherzinger 1995).

Although an image of nature is constructed through Scherzinger’s valuation of regional character that is essentially based on cultural criteria, he presents his view, as do many others, as purely ecologically based. It can be stressed however, that this form of process conservation, in contrast to the views of Reichholf, demonstrates a fundamentally historic dimen­sion that permits a connection with historic preservation to be made. The
historically determined species composition of an area would then have to be interpreted in light of the historic preservation character of a space (cf. Kowarik et al. 1998). This can be achieved with the appropriate work of successful contemporary landscape architecture in urban nature conserva­tion.