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PHUSICOS: 'According to nature' - solutions to reduce risk in mountain landscapes

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Phusicos (PHUSICOS: 'According to nature' - solutions to reduce risk in mountain landscapes)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2021-04-30

PHUSICOS, meaning 'According to nature', in Greek φυσικός, will demonstrate how nature-inspired solutions reduce the risk of extreme weather events in rural mountain landscapes.

Mountains amplify risks, and even more so under extreme weather events. However, mountainous regions do not receive the same attention as densely populated urban areas in national disaster risk reduction (DRR) plans. The national DRR plans focus mainly on regions with highest population density, which tend to be urban and/or coastal areas. The impacts of extreme hydro-meteorological events in mountain areas often affect entire river basins. Some of the natural hazard-related disasters in urban and coastal areas such as flooding caused by landslide dam breaks during and after storms are due to processes and events like flash floods and landslides that initiate in hilly and mountainous regions higher up in the river basin. The focus of PHUSICOS is on demonstrating the effectiveness of nature-based solutions (NBSs) and their ability to reduce the impacts from small, frequent events (extensive risks) in rural mountain landscapes. Nature-based solutions are cost-effective and sustainable measures inspired by nature that attenuate, and in some cases prevent, the impacts of natural hazard events and thereby the risks that affect the exposed regions.

The overarching objective of PHUSICOS – 'According to nature' is to demonstrate through the use of 5 case study sites that nature-based and nature-inspired solutions for reducing the impact of extreme weather events in rural mountain landscapes, are technically viable, socially acceptable, cost-effective and implementable at the regional scale. PHUSICOS will demonstrate that the benefits of NBSs are inclusive by increasing the ecological, social and economic resilience of local communities. Nature-based and nature-inspired solutions are more than green and blue infrastructure. These solutions also include sustainable management and responsible use of land, water and natural resources.
The excellence of PHUSICOS resides in implementing NBSs at European sites to bridge the knowledge gap on NBSs and their efficiency in reducing risk due to hydro-meteorological hazards (for example flooding, erosion, and landslides). Three main case study sites (Serchio River Basin in Italy, Pyrenees in Spain-France, Valley of Gudbrandsdalen in Norway) have been selected as large-scale demonstrator sites for implementation of the NBSs. In addition to these three demonstrator sites, PHUSICOS will test specific challenging aspects of NBSs in two small-scale complementary concept cases (the Kaunertal Valley in Austria and the Isar River Basin in Germany). These case study sites are the backbone of PHUSICOS and the work related to the design and planning of the NBSs has been a core activity throughout the project period. NBSs that have been approved for implementation by the Steering Committee include the following:
• Gudbrandsdalen Valley: Conducting a full-scale Living Lab process to co-create and co-design flood protection; developing blue-green solutions to mitigate flooding in a housing development area.
• Serchio River Basin: Two NBS buffer strips adjacent to Massaciuccoli Lake are implemented and being monitored; a sedimentation basin is being constructed; an 'NBS-Lab' in which stakeholders learn about NBS is being carried out.
• Pyrenees: Three different NBSs are being implemented to mitigate risks of i) snow avalanches with afforestation, ii) erosion by constructing vegetated terraces, and iii) rockfall by the construction of wooden protection structures.
• Kaunertal Valley: Altitude adapted and microbe assisted seed mixture to reduce erosion in high mountain environments. Fieldwork to validate the NBS interventions is being carried out.
• Isar River Basin: An NBS summer school was planned as a physical event in the autumn 2020; however, this was carried out as a virtual event.

Highlights of the work performed during the period M19 to M36 for each of the five innovation actions are summarised:
• Service innovation: Assessing user satisfaction of the Living Labs is based on expectations and baseline knowledge from the first Living Labs. However, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, telephone interviews with selected stakeholders was therefore conducted and this is reported in Deliverable D3.5.
• Technical innovation: Monitoring of ecosystem services based on sampling campaigns at selected sites provides first assessments (Deliverable D4.2). Furthermore, in order to monitor the effectiveness of NBS, Deliverable D4.3 presents the components necessary for developing a complementary monitoring network based on the ambits outlined in the assessment framework.
• Governance innovation: Work continues with emphasis on expanding the assessment to include enablers of and barriers to NBS implementation and financing at the regional, national and international scales. Work with the Policy Business Forum (PBF) continues with the second PBF held virtually on April 19th 2021.
• Learning arena innovation: Additional funding has been secured to develop the PHUSICOS-VR simulation to introduce NBS as a concept and to showcase NBS from the demonstrator case study sites. In addition to this product, the NBS social-ecological simulation (serious game) has been developed and a prototype has been tested.
• Product innovation: The PHUSICOS data platform has been developed based on the review of existing databased (Deliverable D7.2). The proposed web-based tool is accessible by the stakeholders and the data set includes 152 NBS.
Assessing impact is based on the expectations of H2020 Innovation Actions as well as the expected impacts from the call specification. This is accomplished according to framework based on a Theory of Change process to illustrate the linkages between project outputs that have been produced and the long-term desirable impacts that have not yet occurred. In summary, PHUSICOS is on track for achieving expected impacts that support excellent science as well as impacts identified in the call specification. Specifically, there are strong indications that PHUSICOS is following feasible transformative pathways with regard to impacts that include: implementing NBS as good examples of best-practices that are needed for mainstreaming and scaling up of NBS; providing protocols that measure economic, societal and economic benefit with the Living Labs methodology and the Comprehensive Assessment Framework especially relevant; enhancing capacity and sharing knowledge through the Policy Business Forum and the development of the training programs; developing the NBS evidence based and data platform; and networking and clustering with relevant H2020 projects and initiatives to create critical mass and provide input to European and International NBS policies.
Lake Massaciuccoli - NBS demonstrator case study site for Serchio River Basin, Italy
PHUSICOS Consortium - meeting in Vienna, Austria
PHUSICOS-VR prototype illustrating afforestation in Capet Forest
PHUSICOS-VR illustrating the opening scene at the Gudbrandsdalen demonstrator case study site
map illustrating location of the case study sites
Valley of Gudbrandsdalen, Norway - excursion with PHUSICOS partners and local stakeholders