Rivers and their surroundings harbor a high number of species and contribute substantially to global biodiversity. But pollution, land-use, climate change and physical changes such as dams, have impacted rivers heavily. Increased flooding also poses an increased risk for human safety and infrastructure in floodplains. To counteract these negative trends, we need to take measures that consider the bigger picture.
Rivers receive water from the entire catchment. SABICAS therefore considers the catchment as the appropriate unit to implement measures to safeguard biodiversity and improve climate adaptation. Although current legislation operates at the level of catchments, it fails to acknowledge important features of river ecosystems, namely their banks, floodplains and connected wetlands. SABICAS puts these ecosystem features in the forefront to solve the problem of our rivers and use them actively as nature-based solutions (NbS) - that is, solutions to societal and environmental challenges that are inspired by or supported by nature.
SABICAS is a research project funded by the Research Council of Norway and involves eleven partners working with research, governance and biodiversity. We will use two case study catchments that are impacted differently by human activity: Halden River (Haldenvassdraget) in South-East Norway and Gausa in South-Central Norway. We will study how small parts of land area can be transformed into NbS that will provide a number of benefits for nature and people, without major economic losses.
SABICAS engages with all important stakeholders, from recreational fishermen to farmers and from local grassroots to policy makers, through several activities, including workshops, living labs etc. We will use their input to influence how we investigate effects of NbS and be in dialogue throughout the project on how to prioritize the different solutions. SABICAS will find out which types and designs of NbS are most effective and will develop a user-friendly toolbox to optimize the use of NbS at the catchment scale.
For more information and regular updates: https://www.sabicas.no
River networks are key ecosystems harboring disproportionally high amounts of biodiversity relative to their areal coverage. Simultaneously, biodiversity loss rates for freshwater dependent species is equally high as rivers integrate all land-use stressors from their catchments, and flooding risk increases due to climate change. Collectively, this urgently calls for holistic multi-purpose management approaches. Despite the ecosystem-based management enforced through the EU Water Framework Directive, catchment processes and freshwater dependent riparian ecosystems are not included in the river basin management plans. Consequently, the coupling between diverse and functional riparian zones, floodplains, and wetlands to riverine biodiversity is not a coherent part of current environmental legislation, hereby omitting logical preservation and management synergies benefitting the whole ecosystem.
SABICAS will focus on river catchments under pressure from a range of land-uses, and how to optimally convert parts of the current land-use into resilient, (eco)functioning Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) using riparian zones, wetlands, and floodplains. Riparian NBS condense multifunctional purposes and have potential to provide a pivotal balance between nature, natural resources, and human society in a future with increased land-use pressures and a changing climate. SABICAS aims to provide tools and knowledge needed to quantify NBS benefits (biodiversity improvements and climate adaptation) and co-benefits (mitigating negative effects of other land-use stressors) for freshwater dependent biodiversity and human society in order to facilitate dialogue and decision making among stakeholders and managers and to overcome prioritization barriers. This will enable a faster transition towards green and sustainable solutions in river catchments with multiple conflicting interests.