MERLIN Podcast

Europe’s freshwaters are in an alarming state. Water pollution, habitat destruction and the ongoing effects of climate change have caused significant biodiversity loss and ecological decline across the continent. There is a pressing need for major freshwater restoration projects which tackle these declines and bring rivers, streams, peatlands and wetlands back to life.

MERLIN is a major European Union funded project which is investing millions of Euros to help mainstream freshwater restoration across the continent over the coming years. This podcast follows the MERLIN project in this journey. It offers a behind the scenes look at some of the continent’s most ambitious freshwater restoration projects carried out through cutting-edge aquatic science and conservation.

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EP.4 – Mainstreaming freshwater nature-based solutions across economic sectors

Nature-based solutions are a hot topic right now. So-called 'NbS' are environmental management approaches that use natural processes to help tackle socio-environmental challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, flooding, food production and health and wellbeing.

The MERLIN project explores how the benefits from nature-based solutions can help foster collaborations between different economic sectors to help mainstream freshwater restoration. MERLIN works with representatives from six economic sectors – agriculture, hydropower, insurance, navigation, peat extraction, and water supply and sanitation – to encourage the adoption of nature-based solutions in their activities across Europe.

MERLIN project partners recently released a briefing exploring how nature-based solutions are understood across these sectors in Europe, and – vitally – how they might help encourage collaborations which strengthen restoration efforts.

In this podcast, host Rob St John speaks to project partners who work with these sectors, and in doing so, explore the key issues highlighted in the briefing. Rob talks to: Esther Carmen (Hutton Institute), Sanja Pokrajac (WWF Central and Eastern Europe), Alhassan Ibrahim (Hutton Institute), Jack Rieley (International Peatland Society), Tamas Gruber (WWF Hungary), Kirsty Blackstock (Hutton Institute) and Mia Ebeltoft (MERLIN).

Read the briefing here



EP.3 – Restoring Europe's peatlands and wetlands

Peatlands and wetlands are vital landscapes. They store carbon and so help mitigate the harmful effects of climate change, they help buffer floodwaters and naturally filter drinking water, and they are often rich habitats for biodiversity. But peatlands and wetlands have been widely drained, altered and lost across Europe as a result of human actions.
This episode explores how peatlands and wetlands across the continent are being restored through a series of ambitious projects supported by the MERLIN project. Podcast host Rob St John meets a range of restoration scientists and managers implementing so-called 'nature-based solutions' at their sites across Europe. Their schemes include beaver reintroduction, peatland 'rewetting' and wet woodland restoration.
We also hear from MERLIN project coordinator Dr Sebastian Birk on the need for fresh thinking around how to finance restoration schemes. Dr Birk discusses the challenges of accounting for factors such as carbon storage when assessing the benefits that restoration can bring to society.



EP.2 — Freshwater Restoration in Europe: Transformation, Disruption and Inspiration

This episode explores the big ideas that are shaping how ambitious freshwater restoration projects are being carried out across Europe. From dam removal to floodplain restoration, the European Union funded MERLIN project is investing millions of euros to disrupt and transform existing ways of carrying out freshwater restoration.

But what do these keywords – transformation and disruption – actually mean in practice? And what are the underlying inspirations that motivate scientists and environmentalists to help bring Europe’s freshwaters back to life?

In September 2022 podcast host Rob St John travelled to Fulda, just outside Frankfurt in Germany, to attend the first MERLIN all-partner meeting. At the meeting Rob spoke to project partners from all over Europe to find out about how they’re working together to research, plan, finance and implement major freshwater restoration projects. The aim of this work is to encourage healthier European rivers, streams, peatlands and wetlands, which aren’t only good for nature, but also bring many social and economic benefits.



EP.1 – Introducing MERLIN // Large river and floodplain restoration on the Rhine Delta

In July 2022 podcast host Rob St John travelled to the Netherlands to meet MERLIN practitioners working on the project’s large river restoration sites.

Over a number of hot, sunny days the team explored floodplains across the Rhine Delta which had been restored through a major project called Room for the River. Started in 1995, Room for the River worked to reconnect the Rhine with its floodplains, which had become isolated through the construction of dikes and levees. By making room for the river to periodically inundate its floodplains, new spaces for biodiversity habitat, carbon storage and recreation have been brought back to the Rhine catchment.

Walking along the banks of the Rhine, Rob speaks to restoration practitioners about their work, and catches up with MERLIN coordinator Sebastian Birk to hear about what the project hopes to achieve.