HORIZON EUROPE FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME┋Mission Climate adaptation, Mission Ocean & waters and Mission Soil Deal for Europe – Joint demonstration of an integrated approach to increasing landscape water retention capacity at regional scale
Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:
- Demonstrated effective and inclusive integrated approaches to the management of landscape, soil, water and vegetation at a regional level, to increase the resilience to climate change impacts on soils, waters, habitats and biodiversity;
- Demonstrated effective nature-based solutions and ecological approaches to increase landscape water retention capacity, including soil water retention capacity;
- Demonstrated economic feasibility of these solutions, ensuring their long term sustainability;
- Enhanced implementation of the European Green Deal, the EU Adaptation Strategy, the EU Biodiversity Strategy, EU legislation for the protection of freshwaters (such as the EU Water Framework Directive and EU Groundwater Directive) and the EU Soil Strategy for 2030;
- Better information and greater mobilisation of all relevant actors, including citizens, local and regional authorities and planning bodies, farmers, foresters, land owners, business owners and economic operators, soil protection and management organisations, water management and planning bodies, for an effective and sustainable governance of soil, water and all other landscape components to achieve climate change resilience and increase water retention in the landscape.
This joint topic relates to the Adaptation to Climate Change Mission’s third objective, aiming to support at least 75 full-scale deep demonstrations of climate resilience, to the Mission Ocean & Waters’ objective 1, protect and restore marine and freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity, and objective 2, prevent and eliminate pollution of marine and freshwaters. The topic also relates to several specific objectives of the Mission "A Soil Deal for Europe", including to the objectives to reduce soil degradation and soil sealing and to prevent erosion. It also contributes to the objectives of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), including achieving Good Ecological and Chemical Status and restoration of aquatic ecosystems, to the objectives of the Groundwater Directive as regards improvement of chemical status of ground waters, as well as to the freshwater objectives of the Biodiversity Strategy 2030 on the re-naturalisation of rivers and the restoration of floodplains.
Landscape water retention capacity is understood as the ability of water bodies, soils and other ecosystems to retain water after it has fallen as precipitation; it is fundamental for the protection of biological diversity as life depends on water. High landscape water retention capacity prevents accelerated surface run-off, increases water content in soils and surface and ground water availability for vegetation, improves the quantity and quality of groundwater and aquifer recharge, reduces soil erosion and nutrient run off into surface water bodies, and improves local micro-climate by reducing local air and biomass temperature. As such, it has the potential to prevent and mitigate impacts of extreme hydrological events such as floods and to act as a buffer against heat extremes. Permanent vegetation in a landscape, such as forest areas, wetlands and permanent grasslands, significantly improves water retention capacity.
Projects should demonstrate socio-ecological approaches and nature-based solutions to increase landscape and soil water retention capacity, leading to improvement of quality and quantity of ground and surface waters in the area where they are deployed, and boosting resilience to climate change impacts. A combination of nature-based measures with hybrid solutions and relevant Blue-Green engineering may be considered, provided these combined solutions are sustainable and provide adequate social and environmental safeguards.
The consortium must carry out demonstration activities in 3 different Member States or Associated Countries, involving and including in the consortium partners from these respective countries. Proposals under this topic should comprise full-scale demonstration of innovative solutions in real conditions of landscapes in the countries selected for demonstration activities, with specific impacts leading to a measurable increase of the resilience and adaptation capacity of the areas involved, whilst contributing to climate change mitigation, surface and ground water quality, soil health improvement and biodiversity protection and conservation. Applying a multi-actor approach, demonstrations should be carried out at the level of socio-ecological territorial units that are large enough to allow covering the different living and non-living systems (soil, water, vegetation and other biota, human communities, etc.) in a landscape and the complex web of relations among them (e.g. a region or a sea/river basin).
Planning, implementation and management of effective measures to increase landscape water retention capacity requires involvement of various stakeholders and their expertise, such as land, owners, spatial planning and other local and regional authorities, soil protection and management experts, water management and planning bodies, landscape planning experts, farmers and forest managers. Local authorities and local communities should be involved in the design and implementation of the solutions, to ensure that these are well suited for local needs and conditions and are “owned” by the local communities. Activities should, therefore, promote the involvement of local communities as well as the relevant authorities, to consider with them the impact of intended actions, and to co-create measures while taking local communities’ needs and values on board. The proposals should involve citizens, including where appropriate European Solidarity Corps, and relevant citizen science activities.
The project(s) should also identify, create and disseminate best-practice examples for end-users (e.g. farmers and other land managers, decision-makers, water management authorities, landscape planners) to ensure landscape water retention capacity in the long term, including soil water retention capacity, with a view to boosting resilience to climate change, preventing biodiversity loss and promoting at the same time socio-economic transition processes in an ecosystem-based and circular economy perspective, and promote those best practices among the end users.
The demonstration sites established within the project(s) funded under this topic could qualify as “lighthouses” in the sense of the Mission A Soil Deal for Europe if and when they comply with the criteria laid down in the Implementation Plan of that Mission.
Proposals should both:
- Involve at least five 'associated regions' as third parties, to showcase the feasibility, replicability and possibility to scale up the solutions developed. The consortium will proactively reach out to these associated regions to enable them to follow closely the project and its demonstration activities, transferring knowledge to them and technical assistance to build capacity and to implement integrated approaches for landscape, water and soil management to increase landscape water retention capacity in their territories; and
- Draw up an action plan and roadmap to replicate and scale up the solutions within the ‘associated regions’ and beyond them, to increase landscape water retention capacity, including soil water retention capacity.
As a mechanism to provide knowledge transfer and technical assistance to the associated regions, the selected project should provide support to third parties in the form of grants. The maximum amount of the envisaged Financial Support to Third Parties is EUR 100 000 per third party for the entire duration of the action. Proposals should outline the process for selection of the third parties to which financial support would be granted, based on the principles of transparency, objectivity and fairness.
The project(s) funded under this topic should address all the below points:
- Contribute to the networking and coordination activities and joint activities of the three Missions, including by establishing links with projects funded under Horizon 2020, including the European Green Deal call, and under Horizon Europe, where they are relevant for climate adaptation and soil health knowledge and solutions;
- Include a mechanism and resources to establish links with the Implementation Support Platform of the Mission Ocean and Waters and build links with other activities of this Mission to maximize synergies;
- Include a mechanism and the resources to establish operational links with the Climate-ADAPT platform (run by the European Environment Agency (EEA) together with DG CLIMA) that will act as a central element for the monitoring, support and visualisation of the Adaptation to Climate Change Mission progress in European Regions. To this purpose, projects will feed their results to the Climate-ADAPT and EEA assessments and should include a mechanism to establish links with the Mission Adaptation to Climate Change Implementation Platform;
- Include a mechanism and resources to establish links with the Implementation Platform being established for the Mission A Soil Deal for Europe; and
- Support the Ocean and Water Knowledge System and the EU Soil Observatory, in particular by contributing to knowledge creation and data collection.
Specific Topic Conditions:
Activities are expected to achieve TRL 6-7 by the end of the project – see General Annex B.
These could build on solutions studied e.g. under topic HORIZON-MISS-2022-CLIMA-01-05 “Boost the sponge function of landscape as a way to improve climate-resilience to water management challenges”, among others.
 “Lighthouses” are defined in the Implementation Plan of the Mission ‘Soil Deal for Europe’ as “places for demonstration of solutions, training and communication that are exemplary in their performance in terms of soil health improvement”. They are local sites (one farm, one forest exploitation, one industrial site, one urban city green area, etc.) that can be included in a living lab area or be situated outside a living lab area.
‘Associated regions’ are understood as areas with similar ecosystems that can benefit from the demonstration activities (neighbouring regions and/or regions in a different river basin, including less-developed regions), which are selected with a view to building capacity to implement innovative solutions to manage landscape, water and soil in an integrated approach to restore ecosystems. Proposals should ensure that the associated regions are located in Member States/Associated Countries other than those that are part of the project consortium.
 See Cordis results packs LC-CLA-13-2020, at https://cordis.europa.eu/programme/id/H2020_LC-CLA-13-2020, and LC-CLA-2020 12a Advancing climate services | Programme | H2020 | CORDIS | European Commission (europa.eu)