Horizon Europe is the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation. Read more about the Horizon Europe programme here.
This call aims to demonstrate socio-ecological approaches and nature-based solutions to increase landscape and soil water retention capacity.
Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:
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:
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:
To be eligible for funding, applicants must be established in one of the following countries:
Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions, only legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes, as beneficiaries, three legal entities independent from each other and each established in a different country as follows:
The total indicative budget for the topic is EUR 15.00 million.
The Commission estimates that an EU contribution of around EUR 15.00 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately.