Danube river basin lighthouse – Protection and restoration of wetlands, flood plains, coastal wetlands and salt marshes and their biodiversity






May 12 2022


Sep 27 2022



Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  • Contribute to the European Green Deal, the EU Biodiversity Strategy, the EU Zero Pollution Action Plan and the Water Framework Directive as well as other EU instruments and policies that concern freshwater ecosystem protection;
  • Contribute to the implementation of the protection and restoration of wetlands, flood plains and coastal wetlands and salt marshes under the 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance[1];
  • Reverse the deterioration of the state of wetlands, flood plains coastal wetlands and salt marches in the Danube river basin and in the adjacent Black Sea area, including by developing solutions to restore lateral connectivity of rivers with their associated floodplains and wetlands;
  • Improve protection of local communities and ecosystems from extreme events (flood, droughts, storms) in the Danube river basin and its delta, in particular with nature based solutions linked to wetlands, flood plains, coastal wetlands and salt marshes;
  • Improved monitoring of carbon sequestration capacity of wetlands and coastal wetlands and salt marshes and about the impacts of the changing climate system and different management methods on the capacity of these ecosystems to sequester carbon;
  • Support the scaling up of wetlands, flood plains and coastal wetlands and salt marshes ecosystems and biodiversity restoration in the ‘associated regions’;
  • Increased share of local revenue and business activities from the restored and protected wetlands, flood plains, coastal wetlands and salt marshes ecosystems in the overall local economic activities.

: Wetlands are ecosystems that are flooded by water, either permanently, for years or decades or seasonally (for weeks or months).

In the Danube river basin area and the Danube river delta more than 70% of its wetlands, flood plains, coastal wetlands such as salt marshes have been lost and/or disconnected[2] and the remaining wetlands are under pressure from human activities, such as discharges of sewage and waste water, drainage for agricultural use and pollution. Yet, wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems and they are important hotspots of biodiversity. They provide key ecosystem services, such as water retention and purification, serve as a buffer in case of floods and droughts, remove excess nutrients and reduce of eutrophication as well as contribute to the management of riverine sediments. They have also a potential as carbon sinks reducing the input of greenhouse gas emissions in the future.

The proposals will focus on demonstration of active and passive restoration of wetlands, flood plains, coastal wetlands such as salt marshes including in the transitional waters of the Danube river delta at a large scale. The demonstration activities will combine measures to restore and protect wetlands, flood plains or coastal wetlands such as salt marshes, measures to re-connect wetlands, improvement of protection of communities against floods using nature based solutions involving wetlands, flood plains, coastal wetlands (e.g.: salt marshes) and mitigation of impacts of droughts on these ecosystems and on connected riverine ecosystems, together with reduction of impacts of pollution, in particular from adjacent agricultural and industrial activities and urban pollution in particular from discharges of waste waters. The demonstration activities should entail a holistic approach of returning the ecosystem to the conditions prior to its disturbance, including where appropriate, re-introduction of species, restoration of lateral connectivity to a river, removal of pressures as well as a long term protection and monitoring.

Proposals must:

  • Carry out demonstration activities in 3 different Member States and/or Associated Countries of the Danube river basin, involving and including in the consortium entities from these three countries;
  • Identify areas and locations where the solutions are replicable and draw up an action plan and roadmap to replicate and scale up the ecosystem and biodiversity restoration solutions and actions.

The projects will include monitoring of carbon sequestration capacity of the wetlands, coastal wetlands such as salt marshes covered by the projects and of the impacts of changes in the climate system on this capacity as well as assessment of the impact of different ecosystem management methods and human activities in these ecosystems on their carbon sequestration capacity. The projects will also include monitoring of the resilience of the habitats targeted (e.g.: extreme events such as floods, droughts, storms) and improved delivery of a range of ecosystem services.

To address the impact-driven approach of the Mission and the nature of Innovation Actions, proposals are expected to work with and engage at least 5 ‘associated regions’ to showcase the feasibility, replicability and scale up of the solutions developed within the projects in other areas. ‘Associated regions’ are understood as areas with ecosystems that can benefit from the demonstration activities (e.g. neighboring regions and/or regions in a different sea basin) and/or less-developed regions, with the need to build capacity to implement the innovative solutions to restore freshwater ecosystems. The proposals should ensure that the associated regions are located in Member States/Associated countries other than those that are part of the project consortium. An “associated region” shall benefit from the Financial Support to Third Parties provided under this topic only once. The involvement of “associated regions” that have not yet participated in Mission projects is encouraged. The partners will proactively reach out to the associated regions to enable them to follow closely the project and its demonstration activities. The projects should continuously share their outcomes and knowledge with those ‘associated regions’ and provide them with technical assistance to build capacity and to implement wetlands, flood plains coastal wetlands such as salt marshes restoration and protection solutions in their territory that contribute to achieving the Mission objectives.

The technical assistance to the ’associated regions’ should include the provision of technical advisory services necessary to the prepare roadmaps, plans and projects to restore and protect wetlands, flood plains and/or coastal wetlands such as salt marshes, including a reduction of human pressures on these ecosystems and pollution in the associated regions restoring the continuity, natural free-flow and hydro morphology of the river by addressing possible barriers and showing the feasibility of implementing innovative solutions. The projects should support data and knowledge sharing through and as well benefit from the Ocean and Water Knowledge System to foster cross-regions, pan-European approaches.

The maximum amount of Financial Support to Third Parties is EUR 100,000 per ’associated region’ for the entire duration of the action. Proposals should outline the selection process of the third parties to which financial support would be granted based on principles of transparency, objectivity and fairness.

The proposals are expected to integrate actions to support the social and economic transitions towards sustainable, inclusive and long term management of the restored and protected ecosystems, including natural, social, economic and cultural elements and business models for generating revenue from the restored and protected ecosystems and involve for that purpose local business communities, in particular SMEs, investors and other business stakeholders.

Training and communication activities towards stakeholders, including regional and local authorities from the ‘associated regions’ should be included in each proposal. Local actors, including where appropriate, the European Volunteer Corps and Mission Citizen Assemblies, should be involved in the demonstration of ecosystem restoration and protection activities and any actions for social and economic transitions towards sustainable inclusive and long term management of the restored ecosystems, like citizen science.

The proposal should consider actions to prevent and reduce pollution from different sources (such as chemicals, excess nutrients, industrial and urban waste waters). The proposals should build on research and innovation developed in the frame of related projects in the current and previous EU framework programmes, such as but not limited to Horizon2020 and Horizon Europe (e.g.: Alfawetlands; WetHorizons; Rewet; AMBER, MERLIN and WaterLands large-scale projects from the H2020 Green Deal topic LC-GD-7-1- 2020 Restoring biodiversity and ecosystem services) and with project funded under the Cluster 6 topic HORIZON-CL6-2021-BIODIV-01-09: Assessing and Consolidating Recent Advances on Freshwater Ecosystem Restoration, including Research Infrastructures and the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda for the Black Sea (SRIA), LIFE, Interreg projects (such as Danube Flood Plain[3]), Danube Regional Project (wetlands)[4], actions on the protection and restoration of wetlands and flood plains carried out by the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube river[5] and national and regional programmes in the Danube river basin as well as the activities of Water4All Partnership and Sustainable Blue Economy Partnership and the Common Maritime Agenda for the Black Sea, in particular in the framework of restoration and management of wetlands, flood plains and coastal wetlands such as salt marshes and their sustainable management.

The projects funded under this topic will:

  • build links with other Mission activities and other relevant activities within the lighthouse and its area to maximize synergies, as well as with the European Blue Parks, other Mission lighthouses and their activities;
  • build links with the Mission implementation monitoring system that will be part of the Mission Implementation Support Platform and with the Danube river basin lighthouse support facility and platform, for reporting, monitoring and coordination of all relevant implementation activities in the lighthouse area as well as with the Blue Parks technical support platform;
  • support the Ocean and water knowledge system, in particular by contributing to biodiversity monitoring, modelling and knowledge creation and data.
  • contribute to the possible extension of the LULUCF Regulation[6] to marine and freshwater ecosystems.

Proposals are expected to show how their activities and results will support the European Green Deal and how they will achieve the Mission’s objectives, in line with the timeframe of the Mission phases, i.e.: by 2025 for the ‘development and piloting’ phase and 2030 for the ‘deployment and upscaling phase’.

Specific Topic Conditions:

Activities are expected to achieve TRL 5 to 7 by the end of the project – see General Annex B.

Cross-cutting Priorities:

EOSC and FAIR data
Ocean sustainability and blue economy
Societal Engagement

[1]1971 Ramsar Conversion on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl habitat. scan_certified_e.pdf (ramsar.org), see also The Convention on Wetlands and its mission | Ramsar.

[2]See Wetlands | ICPDR - International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, Gómez-Baggethun et al. (2019).

[3] Interreg Danube (interreg-danube.eu)

[4] THE DANUBE REGION (undp-drp.org)

[5]Wetlands | ICPDR - International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River

[6] EUR-Lex - 32018R0841 - EN - EUR-Lex (europa.eu)