WaterLANDS – nomination for the Polish Intelligent Development Award 2023


The Smart Growth Forum Foundation has recognized the WaterLANDS Project – Natural Carbon Stores for Climate, People and Nature, awarding the nomination to the Center for Wetland Conservation in the 8th Annual Meeting of the Wetlands Forum. Edition of the Polish Intelligent Development Award, in the category: PROJECT OF THE FUTURE. The five-year initiative, funded by the Horizon 2020 European Green Deal Program, is coordinated by University College Dublin in Ireland and brings together 32 organizations from research, industry, government and non-profit sectors from 14 European countries.

The crucial role of wetlands – the WaterLANDS project for the future

Wetlands are among the most dynamic ecosystems on Earth. They are essential for many people as a source of livelihood, safety and security from extreme events, and for their well-being. Wetlands provide essential services to the landscape and society by storing water and recharging aquifers, improving resource quality by removing pollutants and excess nutrients from them, storing atmospheric carbon or mitigating floods and drought. Wetlands are of great importance for biodiversity, including as habitat for many plant and animal species. They provide us with key ecosystem services.

However, the essential structure of these ecosystems has been largely destroyed. Europe has lost up to 87% of its original wetland area over the past 300 years, meaning that these valuable services have been lost, and water and climate change problems are worsening before our eyes. This situation poses ambitious challenges – to increase the scale of restoration of degraded wetlands towards the restoration of former wetland landscapes – Says Dr. Shane McGuinness, co-coordinator of the WaterLANDS project.

WaterLANDS project a way to fight climate change

The urgent need for large-scale wetland restoration is beyond dispute. This has been highlighted in recent IPCC and IPBES reports on land degradation. EU Green Deal and Biodiversity Strategy to 2030. confirm the serious pressures on European biodiversity and call for scaling up the restoration of all ecosystems. The UN has declared a decade of ecosystem restoration that coincides with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Wetland restoration, despite ambitious strategies, is a socially and economically difficult issue, as indicated, for example, by the discussions during the formation of the Nature Restoration Law . However, this goal is needed to increase the ability to regenerate local economies, to protect and improve human health (mitigating and more easily adapting to climate change), to provide a reliable and accessible supply of clean water and to enhance biodiversity.

If we care about development defined as prosperity achieved through the creation of a safe, healthy, clean and creative world then the basis for choosing this path for the future should be taking care of what is most precious – water and wetland ecosystems,” stresses the coordinator of the Polish partner’s WaterLANDS project. – We regard the nomination of WaterLANDS for the Polish Intelligent Development Award in the FUTURE PROJECT category as an honor and as drawing rightful attention to the urgent need to re-wet drained peatlands.

In Poland, more than 85% of the area of peatlands has been degraded – drained, making the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere from decaying peat deposits equivalent to approx. 10% of Poland’s reported greenhouse gas emissions of anthropogenic origin.

WaterLANDS’ main goal is to restore human-damaged wetlands across Europe and lay the groundwork for increased wetland restoration in more areas. The project will involve practical restoration of specific wetlands and aims to develop the best possible practice models that can be applied to wetland restoration elsewhere. Therefore, wetlands distributed throughout Europe are covered in order to take into account diverse climatic and cultural conditions. They also include different types of wetlands, namely bogs, swamps, riverine wetlands, floodplains and coastal wetlands.

Modes of action within the WaterLANDS project

Restoration activities are carried out at six sites, known as Action Sites. The lessons learned form the basis for future wetland restoration. To this end, WaterLANDS includes 15 Knowledge Sites that have been identified as examples of successful restoration in terms of public involvement, management mechanisms, effective financial incentives, or physical restoration of habitats and ecosystem services.

Project teams are working together under the concept of co-creation to ensure the resilience and health of both wetland habitats and the communities that rely on them. This is an accepted method of intersectoral and interdisciplinary cooperation implemented in the restoration activities of project wetlands(Action Sites).

The project’s experience and results will contribute to overcoming barriers to applying solutions for scaling up wetland restoration in Europe, not only ecological, but also social, financial and management ones, says Dr. McGuinness.

The role of the nominated Wetlands Conservation Center is to provide knowledge and experience. The areas from which this information is taken are around Warsaw(Knowledge Site – Wetlands around Warsaw): Kissing Swamp located in the Mazovian Landscape Park and swamps in the Kampinos National Park. The national partner of the Center for Wetland Conservation in this project is the Kampinos National Park, which has parallel projects: LIFE Kampinos WetLIFE and MERLIN, a project also funded by Horizon 2020. This partnership supports synergistic wetland improvement activities in ongoing projects in the Kampinos National Park.

The Wetlands Conservation Center has more than 20 years of experience in conservation activities, particularly in the protection and restoration of wetlands. During this period, the Association has carried out many projects of national and international scope. Its activities include awareness-raising and educational activities, monitoring the state of Poland’s wetlands and consulting on government policies affecting wetlands, and active conservation in environmentally valuable areas. For the past 19 years, the Center for Wetland Conservation has organized an annual celebration of World Wetlands Day in the form of a full-day conference, field trips, media appearances, etc. As of 2015. is a member of the Save the Rivers Coalition, which aims to protect Polish rivers, and since 2013. A founding member of Wetlands International – European Association.

The latest initiative of the Wetlands Conservation Center is the formation of the “Wetlands Pact,” which took place on February 5 – 7, 2023. during a conference to educate and share information, as well as network and improve cooperation for wetland conservation. The continuation of the established Pact includes. The organization of the first Swamp Summer School, which took place in the first half of July this year.

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