Online case-study portal to share knowledge and report findings (09/2022)
- The MERLIN online case-study portal is designed to share knowledge of the 17 MERLIN case studies.
- The portal provides interactive access to information from case-study level to European scale and across the restoration types including Peatland & Wetland, Small Streams and Basins, and Large Transboundary Rivers.
- Each case-study has a unique page through which details of the restoration activities, objectives and key stakeholders can be viewed.
- The portal has been designed to allow dissemination of data on Case-Study Impact Assessments across MERLIN Indicators for the European Green Deal.
- The portal will also indicate progress in the implementation of new restoration measures in the MERLIN case-studies through application of the IUCN Global Standard for evaluating Nature-Based Solutions.
- The portal provides an important dissemination tool to inform the scientific community as well as the general public on the benefits of restoration across scales.
New framework for monitoring systemic impacts of freshwater and wetland restoration actions (09/2022)
- Robust demonstration case-studies are needed to evaluate whether improvements in ecosystem condition are translated into improvements in ecosystem services.
- This research is essential for effectively scaling-up nature-based solutions across Europe and providing the evidence to support transformation agendas in society and industries, and ultimately supporting the ambitions of the European Green Deal.
- Clear guidance and standardised indicators help monitor the impact of freshwater and wetland restoration measures on European Green Deal goals.
- These monitoring indicators should include environmental indicators (e.g. for biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions and water storage capacity) as well as socio-economic indicators such as stakeholder representation, private finance mobilisation and job creation.
- A combined Before-After-Control-Intervention (BACI) monitoring design is recommended to provide robust evidence and attribute change to the restoration measures.
- Benchmark (cost or effort) and local/regional context data (e.g. land use, governance) are also needed alongside monitoring of impacts to not just measure what has happened at a site but to understand why it has happened.
Case study optimisation strategies (12/2022)
- A SWOT analysis of the IUCN criteria for nature-based solutions to support European Green Deal goals yielded a broad spectrum of information on the MERLIN freshwater restoration case studies.
- This information provides the necessary ingredients to draft an optimisation strategy for the MERLIN case studies on themes including multiple goals, society, restoration techniques, economy, policy and regulations.
- This information offers a basis for peer-to-peer learning between the case studies and those in other regions.
- The optimisation strategies provide new insights and broaden perspectives on restoration actions in individual case studies.
- Identifying the potential for multiple Green Deal goal achievements will initiate broader dialogues with stakeholders and provide new incentives for restoration with multiple benefits for local people.
- Capacity building on financia larrangement swill create new opportunities for restoration actions.
- Clear and agile policy arrangements are needed to enhance stakeholder participation in restoration actions.
- The visioning, planning and evaluation of restoration actions are long-term activities that benefit from adaptive approaches and sound long- term monitoring programs on multiple aspects of biophysical and socio-ecological systems.
Synthesis of the Interim Regional Scalability Plans (04/2023)
- The interim regional scalability plans (RSP) are the next step on the roadmap to upscale freshwater ecosystem restoration after the optimisation strategies (MERLIN Deliverable 2.1). They offer visions for upscaling restoration across wider areas by 2050.
- A template has been designed for collecting input using the manual "Scaling up - From vision to Large-Scale Change. A Management Framework for Practitioners" (Management Systems International 2016).
- Seventeen case studies have prepared their interim RSPs answering questions related to the 'what, 'why', 'where', 'how', and 'who' of scaling up restoration initiatives.
- Further dialogue between cases from each cluster will provide inspiration and feedback to work towards a final RSP at the end of the MERLIN project.
- The upscaling in the RSPs has a time horizon towards 2050, and recommendations have been made to strengthen this visioning. This long-term visioning should be linked with stepwise implementation, for which the use of adaptive pathway thinking can be used as inspiration.
- The term 'restoration' of freshwater ecosystems might put people on the wrong page in the light of changing climate and land use and the time horizon of the RSP. Improving freshwater ecosystems should take these shifting conditions into account to define realistic targets both for biodiversity and delivering ecosystem services.
- The formation of multidisciplinary teams that cover the bio-physical, socio-economic and legal/financial aspects of the RSPs is beneficial for the overarching success of the plans. A well embedded monitoring strategy across all these disciplines is needed.
- The interim RSPs have been prepared by each case study without interaction with the other case studies. The other interactions are with the financial expertise within MERLIN, the outcomes of the sector roundtables and with the case study board. These interactions will be the main actions to improve the RSPs.
- RSPs are designed within the MERLIN project.The implementation of the RSP will be a process to start once the MERLIN project has ended in 2025. During MERLIN, it is essential to define the consortium to adopt and implement the RSP.
Case study implementation plans (02/2023)
- Half of the funding in the EU MERLIN project – almost 10 million € - will be used to realise freshwater restoration measures across Europe.
- Restoration measures will be implemented at sixteen case studies within the lifetime of MERLIN (2021–2025).
- This deliverable comprises the implementation plans of all MERLIN case studies, describing the hands-on restoration activities that are to be implemented in MERLIN.
- The implementation plans support the case study leads in their planning and implementation process, by detailing their goals, listing necessary work steps, planning budget and time, distributing tasks and considering optimisation potential.
- Being aware of anticipated or potential risks is crucial in the implementation process. Strategies for mitigating these risks are developed to avoid delays or hinderances in restoration implementation.
- Implementation planning is carried out on the basis of accomplished tasks, including: SWOT analysis, optimisation planning, self-assessment of the IUCN criteria for nature-based solutions, stakeholder screening, and monitoring of indicators for the European Green Deal goals.
- The implementation planning process thus offers a basis for the participatory and transparent implementation of freshwater restoration measures.
Screening maps: Europe-wide maps of the needs and potentials to restore floodplains, rivers, and wetlands with a range of restoration measures (03/2023, revised 10/2023)
- MERLIN produced a mapping exercise using European datasets on the status of freshwater habitats, freshwater-related species, bird species, ecological state and pressures.
- An innovative spatial aggregation of European river networks was developed to integrate all input data at the same resolution, and discretizing Europe into River Restoration Units (R2Us) for small and large rivers, with wetlands integrated into R2Us.
- River restoration needs throughout the EU were assessed by identifying R2Us that failed to abide by the Habitats and Water Framework Directives.
- Ecosystem Services (ES) assessment was made at the R2U level throughout the EU by combining information on 5 ES delivered by freshwater ecosystems.
- Limitations to restoration were evaluated at the R2U level using the Human Footprint Index as a proxy to restoration constraints.
- Areas where restoration actions might be facilitated or passively enabled were determined by identifying the amount of freshwater protected areas (N2K) by R2U.
- Restoration potential of each R2U was determined as the combination of ES, restoration constraints, and restoration enablers.
- Restoration needs and restoration potential were integrated to determine the R2Us in need of restoration that had the greater potential to be restored.
- This identification provides valuable insights for an upscaling analysis of restoration potential across the EU that serves to effectively guide large-scale restoration, management, and conservation plans.
Mainstreaming aquatic restoration using Nature-based Solutions (12/2022, revised 10/2023)
- Mainstreaming aquatic restoration using Nature-based Solutions (NbS) requires involving all relevant stakeholders and understanding their connection with rivers and wetlands. We work with six economic ‘MERLIN’ sectors (Agriculture, Hydropower, Insurance, Navigation, Peat Extraction and Water Supply and Sanitation).
- Our data suggests these sector actors are aware of the environmental and socio-economic challenges arising from degraded freshwater ecosystems and are aware of the types of NbS that MERLIN will demonstrate and implement. However, not all sector actors were convinced of the need for radical change/transformation or that they could rely on NbS to deliver their sector needs.
- The language of NbS is not well embedded (yet) with these sectors, however concepts of sustainability and working with nature are well understood. With its focus on meeting societal goals, NbS can address the sectors’ concerns about balancing environment, social and economic objectives.
- The sectors are seeking evidence regarding the benefits of NbS to their sector, concrete examples of NbS at the catchment scale and assistance to integrate sectoral concerns into spatial catchment management.
- There are strong interdependencies and synergies between the MERLIN sectors. However, there are also potential trade-offs and challenges. We are building a Community of Practice to support an understanding of NbS, how we can enable mainstreaming of NbS in the six MERLIN sectors, and most importantly, how the sectors can work together.
Briefing on policy opportunities for mainstreaming freshwater nature-based solutions (09/2023)
- Transformation (a fundamental change in scale and pace) is required to mainstream freshwater restoration across Europe.
- European Union (EU) public policies are a lever for transformation, through creating new opportunities, maintaining good practices and disrupting drivers of degradation.
- Six EU policies relevant to six economic sectors (Agriculture, Hydropower, Insurance, Navigation, Peat Extraction and Water Supply and Sanitation) were reviewed. The implementation of four policies in selected Member States was also assessed.
- The policies could do more to make the types of measures being demonstrated in the MERLIN case studies more visible.
- The policies can promote Nature-based Solutions (NbS) using the IUCN Global Standard criteria to ensure that all aspects of NbS are properly considered.
- All six economic sectors have the potential to play an important role in promoting the use of freshwater NbS; some sectors such as the Peat Extraction or Insurance sector could be more visible.
- Policies need to work together with aligned objectives, instruments and implementation to have a coherent approach to the biodiversity, climate and economic crises.
- Strategicpolicyplanningprocesses(suchasCommonAgriculturalpolicy strategic plans) can play a role in promoting freshwater NbS and developing cross-sectoral, catchment scale interventions. Review processes for these plans, and for permits or licences, can be triggers for change.
- There are several policy review opportunities arising between now and 2030 to embed freshwater NbS as a mainstream practice.
MERLIN dissemination and exploitation plan (02/2022)
- MERLIN has defined seven principles for making impact that build the framework for communication, dissemination and exploitation in the project.
- Along these principles, six relevant target groups are specified, for which different tools of communication and dissemination are determined.
- All activities are centred around the ‘MERLIN key outputs’, which are the 33 project deliverables with public dissemination level.
- These key outputs are grouped into clusters to streamline the communication and dissemination activities along six main thematic strands.
- Centrepiece of this dissemination and exploitation plan is the specification of all MERLIN key outputs and the envisaged dissemination and exploitation channels.
- Eleven key performance indicators and target values have been identified for the different communication and dissemination tools.
MERLIN website and leaflet (01/2022)
- The MERLIN webpage serves to inform the scientific community as well as the general public about the MERLIN project, its aims and its activities.
- The MERLIN webpage will continuously be updated and amended with MERLIN results and related information during the project’s lifespan.
- The MERLIN leaflet is meant to inform the public about restoration and nature-based solutions in general and specifically about the MERLIN project.
- The MERLIN leaflet will be translated into all case study languages.