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MERLIN - Mainstreaming Ecological Restoration of freshwater-related ecosystems in a Landscape context: INnovation, upscaling and transformation


MERLIN stands for Mainstreaming Ecological Restoration of freshwater-related ecosystems in a Landscape context: INnovation, upscaling and transformation. MERLIN is a European Horizon 2020 project (2021-2025) with 44 partner organisations across Europe.

MERLIN aims to enable transformative ecosystem restoration, mainstreaming Nature-based Solutions to respond to climate change and loss of biodiversity which threaten economic prosperity, human well-being and societal cohesion.  It aims to contribute to Europe’s Green Deal and its Green Recovery.  MERLIN will deliver sector specific and overall cross-sectoral strategies to support such transformative restoration. To make these  strategies meaningful and practical, we need to work closely with sectors that affect, and are affected by, restoration of freshwater environments using Nature-based solutions (NbS).  These sectors are: agriculture, hydropower, insurance, navigation, peat extraction and water supply.

Hutton’s role in MERLIN

The James Hutton Institute co-leads, together with WWF, work on transformation (Work Package 4).   In this work we focus on designing strategies for transformation that can 'mainstream' restoration across sectors, in order to deliver societal benefits and contribute to Europe's Green Deal objectives (climate resilience, improved biodiversity, zero pollution, sustainable food systems, health and wellbeing). The benefits of restoration should be relevant to many sectors to help them deal with future challenges, but many lack experience of thinking or working on NbS.  Hutton also contributes to other parts of MERLIN, ranging from demonstrating and implementing best-practice restoration, through to work on upscaling transformation (especially by working with new sources of finance and funding) and work on knowledge exchange and networking.

Current activities in Spring 2022

Keith Marshall and Alhassan Ibrahim  are leading the preparation of a report based on MERLIN case-studies’ use of IUCN Nature-based Solutions Self-Assessment Report. The report presents the key findings from adopting the tool, including the challenges and opportunities for mainstreaming restoration.

Kirsty Blackstock, Alhassan Ibrahim and Esther Carmen together with the WWF team are holding stakeholder roundtables for the thematic sectors in MERLIN’s work package 4. The roundtables aim to discuss the challenges faced in sectors such as agriculture, insurance and navigation in mainstreaming restoration. Together with the identified stakeholders, pathways will be developed, capitalizing on the opportunities to overcome the existing challenges.

Publications and resources

  • In December 2021, Alhassan Ibrahim and Kirsty Blackstock developed a brief guideline for mapping stakeholders and establishing stakeholder boards. This guideline was accompanied with a stakeholder mapping template, which is being used by MERLIN case studies to map their stakeholders and establish relevant boards to lead the implementation of restoration measures.
  •  A Merlin leaflet gives a 14-page overview of the project.
  • Additionally, the following publication derives from predecessor work and establishes principles for restoration relevant to MERLIN: Juárez-Bourke, A.; Blackstock, K.L.(2021) Participatory approaches: principles and practices for river restoration projects., In: Morandi, B., Cottet, M. & Piégay, H. (eds). River Resoration: Political, Social and Economic Perspectives. John Wiley, pp294-307.


  • In December 2021, Kirsty Blackstock presented at the MERLIN Consortium Meeting. The presentation generally focused Hutton’s role in MERLIN’s Work Package 4, which is developing transformative change strategies for mainstreaming Nature-based Solutions.

Key Hutton contacts

The institute PI for MERLIN is Kirsty Blackstock; please contact or Alhassan Ibrahim with any queries. You can also visit the main MERLIN website:

Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.