Europe's environment is in an alarming state from nature loss and climate change. This in turn threatens human wellbeing and economic prosperity. Transformative change is needed across society to tackle these crises. The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) is part of the EU-funded MERLIN project which will focus on large-scale, innovative ecosystem restoration using nature-based solutions as one of the keys to driving societal change.

MERLIN stands for Mainstreaming Ecological Restoration of freshwater-related ecosystems in a Landscape context: INnovation, upscaling and transformation. The MERLIN project is committed to transformative ecosystem restoration, bringing nature-based solutions into the mainstream for urgent, systemic change of society. Freshwaters (floodplains, peatlands, lakes and rivers) play an important role - their restoration has great potential to benefit biodiversity and combat climate change, while being beneficial to the economy and society.​

The overall project will focus on different sectors (agriculture, water supply, hydropower, navigation, insurance) to achieve much greater upscaling of nature-based solutions to restore freshwater and wetland biodiversity and in so doing enhance the services they provide. These include climate services (Carbon sequestration and reduced greenhouse gas emissions), climate resilience (to floods and droughts) and wider European Green Deal goals on green growth, inclusion and health and wellbeing.

MERLIN will:

  • Demonstrate the most successful European case studies of freshwater and wetland restoration and let future restoration approaches learn from them.
  • Focus on peatland restoration (for carbon sequestration), floodplain and riparian restoration (for flood mitigation and transformative carbon actions) and river restoration (for restoring free-flow for fish migration).


MERLIN in numbers


partners across Europe


Overall project value


Value of Forth catchment scheme

MERLIN is a €20 million project funded by the European Commission's H2020 programme, bringing together 44 partners from across Europe including universities, research institutes, nature conservation organizations, and stakeholders from business, government, and municipalities. It is led by the University of Duisberg Essen, Germany and will run for four years (2021-2025).

Funding will go to 17 areas in Europe, from Scotland to Israel, where streams, rivers and peatlands are being restored to enhance biodiversity and resilience to climate change, enabling these schemes to be expanded, monitored and evaluated. The success factors of each project will be scrutinised, generating a blueprint for proficient implementation of nature-based solutions. The Forth Catchment in Scotland is one of the case study sites for catchment restoration.

River Forth catchment case study

Around £1 million of MERLIN funding will go towards a scheme in the River Forth catchment area in central Scotland.

NatureScot, UKCEH, the University of Stirling and the Forth Rivers Trust will work in partnership to restore several peat bogs and their vital carbon stores. The scheme will also restore connections between the Allan Water and its floodplain, to contribute to natural flood management and the restoration of valuable wetland habitats.

Measures to be implemented:

  • Peatland restoration to re-vegetate and reduce soil erosion and GHG emissions. Measures include drainage ditch blocking and re-wetting cracked peat bogs;
  • Floodplain restoration to reduce flood risk (and sequester C): Measures include removing engineered "bank protection" to reconnect the floodplain and riparian tree planting for run-off reduction and C sequestration;
  • River restoration: measures include barrier removal and riparian tree planting;
  • Beaver restoration focuses on translocation of growing populations from nearby catchments.

The Forth case study team will work with a case study twin, the Welsh Peatlands project, to develop knowledge-sharing opportunities between these two projects.

Aerial view over small river and surrounding floodplain

Catchment restoration

Floodplain and peatland restoration in the river Forth catchment will reduce flood risk and sequester carbon. Measures include re-wetting of cracked peat bogs and bankside tree planting. Aerial view of the Forth river catchment by the Forth Rivers Trust.

UKCEH people

Dr Amy Pickard, a freshwater biogeochemist, leads UKCEH's input into MERLIN.
Jennifer is a wetland scientist specialising in the biogeochemical functioning of peatlands with particular interest in the impacts of land management. Jenny is leading the Welsh Peatlands twin case study.

MERLIN project website