Project: Circular Economy Approach to River pollution by Agricultural Nutrients with use of Carbon-storing Ecosystems

Acronym CLEARANCE (Reference Number: WaterJPI-JC-2016_07)
Duration 01/05/2017 - 30/04/2020
Project Topic The aim of the project is to identify opportunities and constraints of managing wetland buffer zones (WBZ) for cleaning nutrient-rich runoff water from agricultural systems, contributing to the protection of river ecosystems, bio-energy production and sustainable livelihoods. Circular economy is a systemic approach to production that avoids waste or pollution by re-using and recycling by-products. Most current agricultural production systems are large sources of nitrogen and phosphorous, which is leached to the environment and causes eutrophication of land and surface waters and thus rivers and seas. At the same time, conventional water management used in agricultural landscapes increases the problem of nutrient loss from land to aquatic systems due to enhanced surface outflow. Effective concepts for downstream water treatments are urgently needed. A sustainable solution are natural or constructed wetland buffer zones, which increase retention of nutrient-rich water by allowing wetland soil and vegetation to absorb and remove nutrients from surface and ground waters before they reach downstream rivers, lakes and the sea. As highly productive ecosystems, wetland buffer zones are also effective in sequestering atmospheric carbon. Applying ‘paludiculture’, i.e. the production of biomass under wetland conditions (typically in peatlands, here extended to riparian wetlands as well) offers to combine nutrient removal and recycling with carbon sequestration and biomass production. We assess the prospects to use vegetation biomass harvested in WBZ to produce agricultural and gardening substrates (compost), energy (combustion, biogas) or industrial raw materials. The nutrient recycling potential through biomass removal and re-use will be assessed, monetarised and its commodification will be explored. The added value of the proposed approach will be quantified, such as increased soil organic matter and improved water sorption, lower erosion susceptibility as effect of substituting synthetic fertiliser with compost or lowered GHG emission reduction by replacing fossil fuels with biomass produced in WBZ. We will also analyse societal and economic opportunities of creating WBZ by the assessment and evaluation of their multiple ecosystem services, including supporting (biodiversity) and cultural ones (recreation, angling, tourism, etc.). Lastly, we will assess the economic potential of the proposed approach in selected case-study areas by cost-benefit-analyses of establishing and maintenance of wetland buffer zones, economical valuation of ecosystem services related to them and to modelled scenarios at catchment scales and promote its implementation by involving and consulting stakeholders and policy-makers.
Network WaterWorks2015
Call 2016 JOINT CALL: Sustainable management of water resources in agriculture, forestry and freshwater aquaculture sectors

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 University of Warsaw Coordinator Poland
2 Warsaw University of Life Sciences Partner Poland
3 Green Management Group Partner Poland
4 Greifswald University Partner Germany
5 Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries Partner Germany
6 Aarhus University Partner Denmark
7 Radboud University Nijmegen Partner The Netherlands