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

Rhine field visit
Photo from Rhine Field Visit

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, the 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 in thinking or working on NbS. Hutton also contributes to other parts of MERLIN, ranging from demonstrating and implementing best-practice restoration, upscaling transformation (especially by working with new sources of finance and funding) and working on knowledge exchange and networking.

Activities and Outcomes

  • The Hutton team in collaboration with WWF is developing sector briefings based on outcomes of roundtables, interviews, questionnaires and desktop reviews for six economic sectors in MERLIN. The final briefing will be shared when ready. 
  • On 5th October, Hutton and WWF held a virtual meeting with members of the EU Commission and colleagues to discuss how economic sectors can mainstream nature-based solutions. Kindly read the final brief report based on the meeting. The presentation at the meeting can be located here. The video recording of the main session can be viewed via this link
  • An all-partner meeting was held in Fulda, Germany. A podcast based on the meeting will be uploaded soon. 
  • Alhassan Ibrahim and Esther Carmen have developed a Transformation Framework to guide MERLIN's  transformation of economic sectors and case studies. Find the presentation based on the framework here
  • Kirsty Blackstock and Keith Matthews have contributed to developing a handbook for monitoring freshwater and wetland restoration based on the European Green Deal Goals.
  • In June 2022, Alhassan Ibrahim presented at the XIV International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics held in Italy. The presentation focused on MERLIN's communities of practice and the involvement of the private sector. 
  • Kerry Waylen held a webinar on the topic: Monitoring and Evaluation of Nature-Based Solutions - Thinking outside the box.
  • In Spring 2022, Kirsty Blackstock, Alhassan Ibrahim, Esther Carmen and the WWF team held stakeholder roundtables for five thematic sectors of MERLIN: Hydropower, Insurance, Navigation, Peat Extraction and Water SupplyThe roundtables discussed the challenges faced in the sectors and the areas of cooperation. A roundtable for the Agriculture Sector was not because there was EIP discussion that WWF participated in. A thesis was developed based on ongoing discussions and interviews with the stakeholders in the sector.
  • THE IUCN self-assessment tool for measuring the Global Standards for Nature-based Solutions is being used to help MERLIN case studies to mainstream NbS based on the Standards. A presentation of the initial performance of MERLIN case studies can be downloaded here

Upcoming activities

The following activities are planned: 

  • A report of case studies application of the IUCN-self assessment tool for the Global Standards for Nature-Based Solutions.
  • Re-running the IUCN-self assessment tool to assess how the case studies performed in meeting the IUCN global standards for nature-based solutions throughout the duration of MERLIN.
  • Questionnaire analysis and report to assess expert opinion on freshwater restoration and nature-based solutions needs, challenges and opportunities for transformation across MERLIN economic sectors.
  • Analysis of case studies progress in achieving the European Green Deal Indicators.
  • Supporting finance research and how ecosystem services can generate revenues for the private sector.
  • Policy analysis, including feedback on proposed nature restoration law
  • Examining the social implications of NbS, leaving no one behind.
  • Working across the project to plan the next rounds of roundtables and field trips. 

Key Hutton contacts

The institute PI for MERLIN is Kirsty Blackstock; please contact or Alhassan Ibrahim with any queries. 

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.