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

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Phusicos (PHUSICOS: 'According to nature' - solutions to reduce risk in mountain landscapes)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2019-10-31

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: A receded flood barrier located in Lillehammer municipality which includes the removal of existing grey infrastructure and re-establishing wetlands.
• Serchio River Basin: The construction of buffer strips in the southern part of Massaciuccoli’s Lake to mitigate the risk of pollutant transport due to surface water runoff.
• Pyrenees: Four proposals of NBSs at different locations to mitigate risks of torrents, erosion, and rock fall.
• Kaunertal Valley: Altitude adapted and microbe assisted seed mixture to reduce erosion in high mountain environments.
• Isar River Basin: As a retrospective NBS case the NBSs are Look and Learn Visits to the Isar with a focus on “blue” solutions. The first visit took place in March, 2019.

Highlights of the work performed from the beginning of the project to M18 for each of the five innovation actions are summarised:
Service innovation and the implementation of the Living Labs approach: A working definition of “Living Lab” has been developed (Deliverable D3.1) and a Toolbox for the local case study sites has been created (Deliverable D3.2). The Living Lab approaches are tailored for each of the sites based on the local context. During this reporting period, Living Lab kick-off meetings have been held at each of the case study sites and are being documented following the monitoring and evaluation scheme (Deliverable D3.3).
Technical innovation and the establishment of the comprehensive framework for NBS assessment: The framework has been established (Deliverable D4.1 to verify the performances of NBSs in risk management processes from both technical and socio- economic points of view. This framework has been tailored for each of the demonstrator case study sites and baseline assessments are currently being completed.
Governance innovation and enablers of NBSs: A comparative overview of governance frameworks for successful NBSs has been completed (Deliverable D5.1) and the results indicate that critical enablers include; polycentric governance, NBS co‐design, and financial incentives. Further to this review, work to establish the Policy Business Forum (PBF) has started. Twenty-five stakeholders have already confirmed their interest in the PBF and the first PBF workshop is to be held March 24th.
Learning arena innovation and training programmes: This work has recently started and is focusing on a training programme for local authorities and decision-makers on costs and risks. In order to target local authorities, a Virtual Reality (VR) solution is being explored.
Product innovation and the evidence base and data platform: The PHUSICOS platform has been developed based on the review of existing inventory platforms (Deliverable D7.1). Content is being provided by the project partners and by the case study sites.
NBSs lack adequate proof-of-concept for their replication and up-scaling. This is particularly true for hydro-meteorological events in rural and mountainous regions. For example, the Horizon 2020 Expert Group on 'Nature-Based Solutions and Re-Naturing Cities' listed over 300 potential measures that could be applied when constructing NBSs; however, only 50 measures included are specifically related to DRR and only one of those 50 possible interventions address risk in mountainous regions and landslide hazards. There is a need to facilitate the delivery of more effective environmental protection from hydro-meteorological perils such as landslides, floods, droughts, and erosion to demanding environments. NBSs provide an approach to address this need by co-designing (experts together with stakeholders) structural solutions that are aligned with natural landscapes and that are adaptable to cope with changing conditions such as climate change. They therefore present opportunities for co-creating structural solutions that not only reduce risk, but also improve ecosystem function and social capacity, reduce economic vulnerability and retain a sense of place.

PHUSICOS begins with state-of-the-art knowledge and technology in a number of fields (geosciences, natural hazards, risk assessment and risk mitigation, remote sensing, social sciences, economics, land use and landscape planning, environmental management, ecosystem services, insurance instruments). PHUSICOS will leverage this multidisciplinary knowledge base to collect, develop and maintain evidence-based knowledge on NBSs with the purpose of reducing hydro-meteorological risks in continental/mountain rural regions.
Lake Massaciuccoli - NBS demonstrator case study site for Serchio River Basin, Italy
PHUSICOS Consortium - meeting in Vienna, Austria
map illustrating location of the case study sites
Valley of Gudbrandsdalen, Norway - excursion with PHUSICOS partners and local stakeholders