WaterLANDS project to tackle largescale restoration of Europe’s wetlands

A team of water@leeds researchers are part of a new 5 year project to tackle largescale restoration of Europe’s wetlands, with €23 million of funding from the EU Horizon 2020 Programme Green Deal.

WaterLANDS (Water-based solutions for carbon storage, people and wilderness) will restore wetland sites across Europe which have been decimated by human activity and lay the foundations for scalable protection across much wider areas.

The project which began in December 2021, will undertake hands-on restoration of specific wetland sites, covering an initial 10,500 ha, and create best practice models that can be applied to wetland restoration at other sites. By engaging with local communities and stakeholders, the project will ensure that wetland restoration results not only in environmental gains, but also social and economic benefits for the communities involved.

WaterLANDS is led by University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland and brings together 32 other organisations from research, industry, government and non-profit sectors in 14 European countries.

Prof Joseph Holden, Prof Julia Martin Ortega, Prof Pippa Chapman, Dr Paul Morris, Prof Andy Baird, Prof Lee Brown, Dr Richard Grayson will be working as part of iCASP on the project and will be focusing on the blanket peatlands of The Great North Bog – a peatland restoration project which involves Yorkshire Peat Partnership, Moors for the Future, North Pennines, Wildlife Trusts and Northumberland National Park.

The first in-person meeting of representatives from the 14 countries taking part will be held in Dublin, 4-6 May.

Commenting on the project’s significance, WaterLANDS project coordinator Dr Craig Bullock, Research Fellow in Planning and Environmental Policy at University College Dublin, said:

“Previous attempts at wetland restoration have often been too localised or too fragmented to make a significant difference to the re-establishment of wetland ecosystems and species. In WaterLANDS, we aim to co-create a more effective means of restoration which captures ecological, social, governance and financial aspects, to connect habitats and communities across Europe, ensuring both thrive for many generations to come.”

Comprised of diverse ecosystems including peatlands, fens, riparian marshes and coastal estuaries, wetlands are home to 40% of the world’s species. They also store and capture carbon, remove environmental pollutants, and protect communities from flooding. Wetlands are particularly vulnerable to damage from human activities. Europe has already lost up to 90% of its original wetlands, resulting in massive biodiversity loss, water and food shortages, devastating floods and fires, coastal subsidence and erosion. The largescale, integrated approach developed in WaterLANDS will address these challenges to ensure the resilience and health of both wetland habitats and the communities who rely on them.

Funding for WaterLANDS is part of the European Commission’s Green Deal ambition to make Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050 with a sustainable economy that leaves no one behind.

The short video below outlines some of the key points around the project. Project summary video — WaterLANDS

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