14 Mar 2024

Building resilience against the impacts of climate change: The EU SpongeBoost project will provide the solutions to restoring the natural water retention function of landscapes

The first official press release, announcing the SpongeBoost project, has been published on EurekAlert! and AlphaGalileo Ltd

Extreme heat, prolonged drought or too much rain: Europe's landscapes have suffered from a variety of extreme events in recent years. Floods and droughts have caused considerable damage, not only to nature but also to society. To counteract such acute events, the SpongeBoost project was launched in January 2024. It aims to tackle these severe circumstances by protecting and promoting natural sponge landscapes. Funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme, the four-year endeavour is coordinated by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and will be developed with the active participation of 10 partner institutions from 7 countries across Europe.  

The project is part of the EU mission “Adaptation to Climate Change” focusing on supporting EU regions, cities and local authorities in their efforts to build resilience against the impacts of climate change. Hereof, SpongeBoost will strive to promote the natural sponge function of landscapes in order to improve their resilience to flood and drought events. The functional capacity of sponge landscapes is to be enhanced through the further development of existing solutions and their large-scale implementation, but also through the utilisation of innovative approaches. The project’s leading expert researchers are focussing on promoting natural water retention in landscapes. 

"The protection and revitalisation of wetlands, particularly through peatland rewetting and river floodplain restoration, plays a central role in this," says project manager Mathias Scholz from the UFZ. 

SpongeBoost kickstarted with the first consortium meeting on 21-23 February in Leipzig, Germany. The kick-off meeting welcomed all 10 partnering institutions, laying the foundation for collaborative efforts over the next four years. Over the course of three days, the attendees got the opportunity to acquaint themselves with other project fellows, engaging in thorough discussions on the project’s mission, work plans, the importance of synergies between the teams and potential collaborative initiatives outside of the project.

In cooperation with regional partners, measures that have already been implemented in peatlands and floodplains in 7 model areas from Estonia to the Azores will be analysed in order to examine their effects on the sponge function during droughts and extreme precipitation events. In close collaboration with local decision-makers, this knowledge can be utilised for implementation strategies and measures in future pilot projects.

Through a roadmap, SpongeBoost will guide transformative changes, quantifying benefits, and challenges, and offering tested solutions. The joint mission before the newly formed consortium is to employ both bottom-up and top-down approaches, which will foster networking and synergy at the regional and EU levels.

Stay tuned for more project information on the SpongeBoost website, which is coming soon:

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SpongeBoost receives funding from the European Union's Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement No.101112906.

Views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA). Neither the EU nor the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) can be held responsible for them.