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Wet Horizons wants to fast-track wetland restoration across Europe

A new Horizon Europe project called Wet Horizons wants to promote feasible and more ambitious legislation towards protecting and restoring European wetlands to increase the benefits to both climate change and biodiversity.

Nørreådalen is a lowland area located close to Vejrumbro near Viborg, which is also part of Wet Horizon's project areas. Photo: Lars Kruuse
Nørreådalen is a lowland area located close to Vejrumbro near Viborg, which is also part of Wet Horizon's project areas. Photo: Wet Horizons

Wetlands account for 6% of the total global land area, but they play an extremely significant role in the global ecosystem. However, over the past 200 years, the number of wetlands has been halved worldwide.

“The loss of wetlands is problematic. Wetlands are key biodiversity hotspots, and they play a crucial role in global carbon cycles. They are also critical habitats for many endemic species of fauna and flora, and they can reduce nitrogen emissions, remove pollution and so on,” says Associate Professor Shubiao Wu from the Department of Agroecology. He leads a new project called Wet Horizons, which is a part of the Horizon Europe Programme.

“Wet Horizons is a brand-new project. We want to upgrade knowledge and solutions to fast-track wetland restoration across Europe,” he says.

One of Europe’s most endangered ecosystems

Wetlands are not just important as ecosystems; they are also an essential element to rural communities and not least their economy.

“In fact, ecosystem services provided by wetlands make up to almost 44% of the monetary value of all natural biomes,” Shubiao Wu says.

Despite all the benefit and importance of wetlands they are slowly disappearing or are being polluted. “That is why the Wet Horizons project is so important. We want to kick-start the enhancement of wetland restoration, and we want to do it with a holistic approach. We aim to boost crucial wetland knowledge and at the same time develop sound workable tools and approaches for large scale restoration,” Shubia Wu explains.

Mitigating climate change

Preserving biodiversity and at the same time combating climate change is the overall focus of Wet Horizons. The consortium wants to do this by updating and improving current data from pristine, drained and restored peatlands, floodplains and coastal wetlands. One of the first actions of the project will be to create a new an improved map of European floodplains and coastal wetlands, as wel as developing a European Peatland Database. The plan is also to update the emission factors based on coherently reprocessed and new data from state-of-the-art measurements.

“We aim to model effects of different ways of restoration under variable conditions, and with this new data in hand we will be able to analyse potential economical and societal impacts of the difference measures. Our models will be calibrated against the site data collected from different sites to simulate realistic responses of greenhouse gas fluxes to rewetting and drainage and to extreme climatic events. The resulting simulations of GHG fluxes, water table and soil carbon storages changes will be combined with socio-economic data. We want to assess the response to climate change and to restoration policies by crossing climate scenarios with land use scenarios of enhanced conservation policies produces with the MAgPIE socio-economic land use model. Long-term eddy-covariance data from restored wetlands of partnersites and others will be analysed to estimate the impact of the different ecosystem responses to restoration measures over time in terms of carbon dynamics as well as the impact of extreme climate events on carbon emissions will be assessed,” the project leader explains.

Once the new and improved data has been collected, the plan is to develop guidelines for the best possible restoration measure for different regions and areas in Europe.

Hotspots across Europe

With the guidelines produced by the project-group and recommendations for which tools to use, the final aim of the project is to create a register for hotspots in Europe.

“When we talk about hotspot in this project, we talk about wetland areas, where it will only take a minimal amount of investment in order to gain maximum ecological benefit from restoring,” Shubiao Wu explains.

To ensure the success of the project the plan is to include policy makers and stakeholders in every part of the project.

“We will be in constant dialogue with stakeholders and policy makers during the entire project period. This is extremely important in order to not only to make sure our findings are understandable and ready to use in country-specific decision-making processes. Our final aim is of course for our findings to be used to restore wetlands all over Europe, and that will not happen without involvement of stakeholders and policy-makers,” Shubiao Wu says.

The results of the Wet Horizon project will be used to promote feasible and more ambitious legislation towards protecting and restoring European wetlands to increase the benefits to both climate change and biodiversity.


During the next four years Wet Horizons will collect data from many different locations in Europe. Some of these are:

  • Store Vildmose, Denmark
  • Gribskov, Denmark
  • Balmoral, Scotland
  • Beltie Burn, Scotland
  • Zarnekow, Germany
  • Hütelmoor, Germany
  • Horstermeer, the Netherlands
  • Nieuwkoopse Wetlands, the Netherlands
  • Lompolojänkkä, Finland
  • Ruukki, Finland
  • Biebrza Valley, Poland

More about the project

Collaborators Aarhus University, Radboud University, the Institute for Water and Wetland Research, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Impact Research, the University of Greifswald, the German Research Centre for Geosciences, the James Hutton Institute, Universite de Versaille Saint-Quentin-En, Universite Paris-Saclay, Scottish Rural University College, Wetland International, Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Finnish Meteorological Institute, and European Science Communication Institute.
Funding Funded by the European Union grant no. 101056848
Amount granted 5,6 million €
Project period 2022-2026
Read more

You can read more about Wet Horizons on the project website, or you can follow the project on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram.

Contact Associate Professor and Project Leader Shubiao Wu, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University. Tel.: +45 93522758 or by email: wushubiao@agro.au.dk