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OPEn-air laboRAtories for Nature baseD solUtions to Manage hydro-meteo risks

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - OPERANDUM (OPEn-air laboRAtories for Nature baseD solUtions to Manage hydro-meteo risks)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-06-30

Severe hydro-meteorological phenomena are having a high impact in European territories and are of global concern. The science behind these phenomena is complex and advancement in knowledge proceeds with progress in data acquisition and forecasting useful for real-scenario interventions. The employment of nature-based solutions (NBS) to mitigate the impact of hydro-meteorological phenomena is not adequately demonstrated, still uncoordinated at the European level, therefore not reaching full potential. Actions to achieve highest NBS impact requires strategies to enhance societal acceptance, policy strengthening while demonstrating advantages for market development.
The objective of OPERANDUM is to reduce hydro-meteorological risks in European territories through co-designed, co-developed, deployed, tested and demonstrated innovative green and blue/grey/hybrid NBS, and push business exploitation. It is providing science-evidence for the usability of NBS, best practices for their design based on participatory process, by means of a multiple level of stakeholders engagement from the local community up to the international level to leverage widest possible NBS acceptance to promote its diffusion as a good practice. It establishes the framework for the strengthening of NBS-based policies according to local legislation and promotes technology and innovation in NBS to create a European leadership.
OPERANDUM is based on open-air laboratories (OALs), a fairly new concept that expands the Living Labs to a wider vision for natural and rural areas. In OALs novel NBS in seven European countries and three in China and Australia are implemented to address specific risks and their effectiveness, assessed through innovative monitoring systems and cutting-edge numerical modelling approaches. OPERANDUM realizes a multi-dimensional open and flexible platform enabling stakeholders and end users to improve knowledge in NBS to mitigate climate change as well as ways to promote and exploit the improved/preserved environment while increasing business opportunities.
Within the first 36 months of the project, OPERANDUM has completed 43 Deliverables and achieved 7 Milestones. Several results have been achieved in all components of the projects namely by advancing our understanding concerning the efficacy of NBS against hydro-meteorological risks. Over 20 types of NBS have been co-designed and co-developed against the major hazards addressed by OPERANDUM: river flooding, coastal flooding, droughts, landslides, costal erosion, salt intrusion, storm surge, nutrients overloads. Most of these NBS are associated to an advancement in technology such as the construction of a vegetated dune with sensor-embedded textiles for structural monitoring in a coastal environment which has been patented. In addition, many other NBS are currently being implemented after careful co-design with relevant stakeholders.
A complex monitoring system has been put in place in 8 countries where the NBS are being implemented. Also, multi-scale modelling has been implemented to evaluate the efficacy of the NBS also in comparison with monitored data to ensure a scientific-sound methodology for replication and upscaling. Both monitoring and modelling work is integrated in a complex structure where NBS is evaluated against co-benefits in the area of risk reduction, acceptance, business uptake. The scenarios associated to the specific meteorological conditions investigated have been evaluated through a set of indicators covering different areas of socio-economic, health, legislation and cultural dimensions.
Moreover, OPERANDUM Partners realized the original design, implementation and maintenance of a multi-dimensional, open and flexible platform, namely the OPERANDUM Geospatial Information Knowledge Platform (GeoIKP), available at
Several are the results beyond the state of art such as a thorough analysis has been performed to examine the benefits of NBS in tackling hydro-meteorological hazards. The analysis also included the identification of barriers that hinder the wider uptake of NBS and presents approaches to overcome these social and political barriers. Key findings were published in a top-ranked journal (Debele et al., 2019). A systematic literature review leading to the to set up the methodology for describing the hydro-meteorological risks in OALs. Specifically, the risks considered were floods, drought, landslide, nutrient and sediment loading, coastal erosion and storm surge. Their impacts on the OALs were presented, and the NBS already implemented, or suitable for implementation within OPERANDUM, were discussed, focusing on possible barriers, knowledge gaps and critical issues that could prevent their implementation in OALs. The key findings of these activities have been published in Sahani et al. (2019). Here, an unprecedented and detailed syntheses of hydro-meteorological forcing of hazards in each OAL have been formulated. These results include extreme hydro-meteorological events for each OAL, being identified and classified using a variety of data and a 30-years climatic assessment that was developed using re-analysis (ERA-5) and hydro-meteorological satellite data products. Also, partners performed a systematic literature review to identify existing vulnerability and risk assessment approaches, methods and tools linked to NBS and hydro-meteorological hazards.
The project made crucial methodological advancements in multi-scale impact modelling (Gallotti et al. 2021, Kumar et al. 2020). Among other achievements, the methodological advancements fostered original assessments of NBS efficacy that account for a non-stationary climate consistently in all steps of the model chain (an example is provided by the work of Spyrou et al. 2021) and that may serve as proof-of-concept to generalise the approach.
The GeoIKP, as a major outcome of the project, was introduced in an abstract to the Global Assessment Report for Disaster Risk Reduction 2022, sharing several OPERANDUM results with a broad audience. OPERANDUM was presented as one of UNESCO’s NBS flagship projects during several virtual international events, including: the International Day for Disaster Reduction (Oct 13, 2020), the Global Mountain Sustainability Forum on October 5th, 2020, Thematic session on “Sustainable governance in mountain regions “, the 6th session of UNESCOs “Let’s talk DRR” series on Nature Based Solutions for Disaster Risk Reduction on December 18th, 2020 , the International Symposium on IoT and ML for Ecosystem Restoration and Multi-Hazard Resilience on June 5th, 2021. Knowledge transfer of OAL works is achieved through a series of public webinars organized by UNESCO.
OPERANDUM Stakeholders
OPERANDUM kick-off meeting, Bologna (July 2018)
OPERANDUM infographic on NBS
OPERANDUM Indicators
OPERANDUM annual meeting, Delphi (June 2019)
OPERANDUM executive board meeting, online (April 2021)
OPERANDUM executive board meeting, online (November 2020)
OPERANDUM OALs and project partners
OPERANDUM leaflet OAL-IT Panaro
OPERANDUM partners implementing NBS in OPERANDUM OALs (AT, IT, UK, GR)
OPERANDUM GeoIKP available at