On 1 October 2021, the MERLIN project was launched, where SGGW is one of the partners. As part of the Horizon 2020 programme, the European Union allocated EUR 21 million for this purpose. Thanks to the EU funds, the issue of restoration of freshwater-related ecosystems in Europe is to be solved by 2025.
The main objective of the MERLIN project is to find new and widely applicable solutions which will allow to restore the natural functions of degraded freshwater-related ecosystems, inter alia, to improve their water retention and carbon dioxide sequestration.
The EU funds in the amount of EUR 10 million will go to 17 areas – from Finland to Israel, those where streams, rivers, as well as marshes and wetlands are currently already being restored to a near-natural state. Thanks to the EU funds, the projects implemented will be expanded, upscaled and developed into European-wide models.
The project entitled “MERLIN – Mainstreaming Ecological Restoration of freshwater-related ecosystems in a Landscape context: Innovation, upscaling and transformation” involves 44 partners from the European countries. They include universities, research institutes, nature conservation organisations, business, government, municipality stakeholders. One of the partners is the Warsaw University of Life Sciences SGGW.
The leader of the Merlin project is the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE). As stressed by the coordinator, Prof. Dr. Daniel Hering from UDE and Dr. Sebastian Birk from the UDE Aquatic Ecology Working Group, riverbeds and their flooded areas need more space and must be restored to their natural state. Disastrous floods which have recently affected North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland Palatinate best illustrate the interaction between climate change and river engineering. Restoration requires cooperation of many entities from the socio-economic environment, and a particular emphasis should be placed on cooperation with industries that can benefit most from it, such as, e.g. agriculture, production of drinking water, insurance companies. The effects of joint projects will be calculated both in economic and ecological terms.
An example of projects implemented in this regard is the restoration of wetlands in the Kampinos Forest, where activities have been carried out in recent years, mainly in the field of small-scale retention, aimed at restoring these areas to a near-natural state (“Kampinos Wetlands I” and “Kampinos Wetlands II” projects implemented as part of the Life programme). Currently, project implementers also received support under the MERLIN project in the field of restoration activities. It applies, in particular, to making sections of major water courses (including artificial canals) natural and improving the moisture content of adjacent areas. Restoration is also to contribute to increasing the tourist attractiveness of the forest.
The head of the project on the part SGGW is Prof. Tomasz Okruszko from the Department of Hydrology, Meteorology and Water Management of the Institute of Environmental Engineering, and the implementation partner is the Kampinos National Park.