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Tracking the ecological, social and economic benefits of freshwater restoration in Europe

December 14, 2022
The MERLIN case study portal helps track the ecological, social and economic benefits of freshwater restoration across Europe. Image: MERLIN

The MERLIN project has recently launched its online case study portal. The portal provides interactive access to the seventeen freshwater restoration sites supported by the project. These sites include small streams and basins, large transboundary rivers, and peatlands and wetlands.

The portal offers in-depth information on each case study, including details of restoration activities and key stakeholders involved in their implementation. It outlines innovative approaches to restoration management, governance and financing across each case study.

The portal will help illustrate how each restoration project progresses over the coming years. In so doing, it will show how restoration helps contribute to European Green Deal goals. Further, it will help track and evaluate how new nature-based solutions are applied across the restoration projects.

The seventeen MERLIN freshwater restoration case studies are located across Europe. Image: MERLIN

In order to monitor progress towards Green Deal goals, the MERLIN team have identified indicators relating to seven key goals. These include biodiversity gains, climate regulation, flood and drought resilience, sustainable food systems, participatory governance, restoration financing, and green growth.

A key theme is that these indicators are broader in scope than traditional ecosystem-focused approaches for evaluating restoration projects. Biodiversity is still a vital part of restoration ambitions: for example, MERLIN researchers monitor trends such as conservation status of threatened species and ecosystems.

However, the focus for restoration goals in MERLIN is much broader. Greenhouse gas emissions are monitored to assess the role of restoration projects in climate regulation, whilst the water storage capacity of rivers and wetlands indicates their role in mitigating floods and droughts.

Each case study page features detailed information on the management, governance and financing of restoration activities. Image: MERLIN

This broader focus also extends into food production and governance. MERLIN researchers monitor how land is used in restoration catchments, as a means of assessing their role in sustainable food systems. They also track the participation of public and stakeholder groups in having a voice in the governance of the restoration projects.

Finally, the relationships between restoration and economics are increasingly at the forefront of environmental management and policy. MERLIN researchers document how innovative – and often private – streams of restoration financing may be mobilised, and their potential role in fostering green growth in the case study areas.

The intention is that case study portal will provide detailed insights into the real-world impacts of freshwater restoration projects across Europe. By highlighting the ecological, social and economic benefits of restoration activities, it is hoped that the portal will provide a beacon of inspiration for others seeking to undertake similar projects across the world.


This article is supported by the MERLIN project.

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