EU H2020 Green Deal WaterLANDS: Water-based solutions for carbon storage, people and wilderness

WaterLANDS: Towards restoring European wetlands together with surrounding communities

Project introduction

Swamps, marshes, peatlands, floodplains and ponds – more than 90% of these European wetlands have been drained for other forms of land use. As a result many species of plants and animals have disappeared and important ecosystem services such as retention of water and carbon have deteriorated across these landscapes. More visible consequences of these changes are increased flooding, soil subsidence and loss of water quality. These changes are expected to intensify climate change to the detriment of both nature and people.

Project challenges

WaterLANDS sees wetland restoration as an urgent socio-ecological problem. The project aims to bring together best practices from fragmented restoration projects across Europe in order to identify solutions that benefit both environment and people. The best practices will be tested by restoring 10500 hectares of wetlands. To achieve this a team of 31 partners representing science, industry, government and non-profit organizations from 14 countries will work together with a budget of 23 million Euro for 5 years.

One of the restoration action sites is the Ems-Dollard estuary, where already several nature based adaptations are implemented. Research activities within WaterLANDS have to be aligned with the ambitions of the Eems Dollard 2050 program.

Wageningen and WaterLANDS

The Netherlands is well-represented by Wageningen University, Radboud University, Wetlands International, the province of Groningen en Staatsbosbeheer. Within Wageningen the WaterLANDS team consists of four scientists with complementary expertise:

Dr. Milena Holmgren (expert ecosystem resilience): "There is clearly a need for safeguarding water resources from which life depends. There is very little of it. The largest chances of success are by working together to understand the links between aquatic-terrestrial biomes and across natural and social systems”

Prof. Dr. Francisco Alpizar (expert environmental and natural resource economics): ”Water scarcity has clearly been pushed to the limit. We face a change in the game. What we used to do will not work in the future. We already had conflicts about water. These conflicts will be intensified in the future as climate change progresses. Now we need to decide where to restore to safeguard our freshwater reserves

Dr. Jantsje van Loon (expert climate adaptation and nature based flood protection): “the changing climate and the resulting societal risks form an important incentive for the search for sustainable nature-based solutions”

Dr. Juul Limpens (expert plant ecology and nature conservation) “I have worked with scientists, nature managers and farmers. In many cases they speak a different language. Sometimes however they come together in dialogue and come up with solutions that benefit both nature and people. I am convinced we need this synergy to face the environmental challenges ahead and to keep Europe a good place to live for generations to come."