Restoring the hydrological balance

SpongeScapes will help combat climate change

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An international project with participation from Leibniz University addresses the topic of "sponge landscapes".

Wetland landscape

Too hot, too dry or too wet: Europe’s rural areas have been impacted by climate change for a considerable period now. Flooding, and also periods of drought, have caused damage and loss worth billions of euros in recent years. The SpongeScapes project, launched in October 2023, aims to reduce the impact of climate change by establishing what are known as sponge landscapes. The European Commission is funding this research venture to the overall tune of 2.6 million euros under the Horizon Europe programme. Deltares, a Netherlands-based independent institute for applied research within the field of water and subsurface systems, is coordinating the project. The Institute of Environmental Planning (IUP) at Leibniz University Hannover (LUH) is responsible for a subproject that is receiving more than 360,000 euros in funding.

Improving the sponge function of landscapes 

The goal of SpongeScapes is to promote approaches addressing how to improve landscapes’ natural sponge function and thus, in view of accelerating climate change, to enhance their resilience to flood and drought events. This will involve taking and developing existing solutions and upscaling them. The term SpongeScapes is synonymous with landscapes that store water, hence both limiting flood peaks and providing more water in times of drought.

Promoting landscapes’ natural water retention 

One approach the researchers have adopted involves promoting landscapes’ natural water retention. Examples are avoiding surface sealing, removing drains, developing new wetlands, rewetting peatlands and restoring flood plains to near their natural state. To fund and coordinate these measures, the aim is to cooperate closely with regional partners, including local government. The SpongeScapes research team also wants to evaluate examples of sponge measures already in place and implement pilot projects of its own. Building on this, and in collaboration with local stakeholders, in selected countryside regions action plans and implementation strategies will be drawn up for the development of sponge landscapes. 

New strategies for resilient landscapes

In so doing, SpongeScapes will be improving the state of the art in hydrological modelling, and trialling new approaches by which sponge measures can be applied on a large scale and in an effective manner. Another aim of this research project will be to develop new strategies for resilient landscapes.


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