MERLIN: Finding natural solutions
The flood disasters in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate show how climate change and river engineering interact. "Water bodies and their floodplains need more space – they have to be renaturalized," says Prof. Daniel Hering. The MERLIN* joint project coordinated by the UDE shows how this can work in Europe. The European Union (EU) is funding it with 21 million euros until 2025.
MERLIN seeks new, widely applicable solutions for restoring the functions of freshwater ecosystems, for example to improve flood retention and store carbon dioxide. The project involves 44 partners from across Europe, including universities, research institutes, nature conservation organizations, and stakeholders from business, government, and municipalities. "Many social groups benefit from restoration, and it requires the contribution of many actors," says Dr. Sebastian Birk of the UDE Aquatic Ecology Working Group. He coordinates MERLIN with Professor Hering.
10 million of the EU funding will go to 17 areas from Finland to Israel, where streams, rivers as well as bogs and wetlands are currently being restored to a near-natural state. These major projects will be expanded and upscaled with EU funding and developed into European-wide models. "One focus is on 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 economically and ecologically.
In Germany, the restoration of the Emscher is one of the supported projects. After the former dirty watercourse has already been cleaned and redesigned in a near-natural way at great expense, MERLIN is now contributing to the further upgrading of the watercourse environment. One focus is on the creation and sustainable use of flowering meadows on the Emscher dikes. "Restoration thus also contributes to improving the residential environment and creates local recreation areas," says Sebastian Birk.
*MERLIN – Mainstreaming Ecological Restoration of freshwater-related ecosystems in a Landscape context: INnovation, upscaling and transformation / https://project-merlin.eu