Catalan Water Research Institute research and innovation for the sustainable use of water

Europe seeks natural solutions against flooding with the international MERLIN project

Wednesday, 06 October 2021

Recent flood disasters in central Europe have shown how climate change and river engineering interact, as well as the importance of restoring and renaturalizing river systems and their associated floodplains. Precisely to find natural solutions against floods, the MERLIN international project has just been launched , funded by the EU with 21 million euros , in which four Spanish entities participate, including the Catalan Research Institute Water (ICRA) .

MERLIN (Mainstreaming Ecological Restoration of freshwater-related ecosystems in a Landscape context: INnovation, upscaling and transformation) seeks new and widely applicable solutions to restore the functions of freshwater ecosystems, for example to improve flood retention and store the carbon dioxide. The project is coordinated by the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) and involves 44 partners from across Europe, including universities, research institutes, nature conservation organizations and stakeholders from companies, governments and municipalities. The Spanish partners are the Catalan Water Research Institute (ICRA), i-Catalist , the University of the Basque Country and the Provincial Government of Guipúzcoa .

As Sebastian Birk , from the Aquatic Ecology Working Group of the UDE and coordinator of the project together with Professor Daniel Hering, explains: “There are many economic and social sectors that benefit from restoration, and this requires the contribution of many actors”. In this sense, according to Vicenç Acuña, head of ICRA’s Resources and Ecosystems Area, “our task will consist of quantifying the demand for environmental services at European level, to see in which areas more resources should be invested in renaturalizing or restoring ecosystems This will allow restoration or renaturation investments to be made where there is a greater social demand to do so, and not where it is decided from a point of view of technical or political opportunity, thus facilitating their social acceptance” .

10 million euros of EU funding will be used to restore, from Finland to Israel, 17 areas of streams, rivers, marshes and wetlands to an almost natural state. These major projects will be expanded with EU funding and become European models. “One of the goals is cooperation with industries that can benefit from restoration, for example, agriculture, drinking water production and insurance companies,” explains Daniel Hering . The effects of the measures will be accounted for economically and ecologically.

In Spain, the subsidized restoration project, in which ICRA will also participate, is the demolition of several dams on the Deba River, Guipúscoa , in the river section between Mendaro and Arrasate, associated with mini-hydraulic plants.