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OPtimal strategies to retAIN and re-use water and nutrients in small agricultural catchments across different soil-climatic regions in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - OPTAIN (OPtimal strategies to retAIN and re-use water and nutrients in small agricultural catchments across different soil-climatic regions in Europe)

Período documentado: 2022-03-01 hasta 2023-08-31

OPTAIN is a H2020 Research & Innovation project that proposes a social and scientific journey towards the increase and better understanding of the multiple benefits of Natural/Small Water Retention Measures (NSWRMs). NSWRM are multifunctional measures that can be implemented, for instance, in agricultural headwaters to support the retention and management of water and nutrients by using natural means and processes, contributing significantly to a more resilient agriculture and society. Conflicts between agricultural water use and other human and environmental demands (e.g. for drinking water or maintaining environmental flows) can be mitigated with the help of NSWRM. This is crucial as these conflicts are likely to be exacerbated by an increasing number of extreme events such as droughts and heavy rainfall.
Despite a comprehensive set of techniques available to increase water retention in catchments and on farms, there is still a lack of knowledge on the effectiveness of the measures different across soil-climatic regions and agricultural systems, especially under changing climate conditions. OPTAIN aims to increase this knowledge for small agricultural catchments in the European continental, pannonian and boreal regions. Furthermore, OPTAIN aims to increase the acceptance and better implementation of NSWRM by showing under which weather/climate conditions, at which location in the catchment and in which combinations of measure NSWRM perform best, considering environmental and socio-economic indicators.
This is done by elaborating from the current state of knowledge, stakeholder experience from 14 case studies involved in the project and innovative scientific modelling and optimization approaches. All the knowledge gained will be translated into a Learning Environment that allows the analysis of trade-offs and synergies between multiple values and goals in the management and design of NSWRMs. Close cooperation with local actors and a range of communication and dissemination activities will build capacity and increase acceptance and better implementation of NSWRM for the benefit of both people and ecosystems.
A central and innovative element of OPTAIN is its harmonized approach across all 14 case studies (CS), which requires cooperation of all CS and work packages (WP) throughout the project. This harmonized framework guided, for example, the establishment of a Multi-Actor-Reference-Group (MARG) in each CS. Other activities of OPTAIN were related to the documentation of NSWRM, indicator development, data collection, preparation of the modelling frameworks, policy analysis and communication/dissemination activities.
Specifically, the following activities and results were achieved in OPTAINs WPs:
WP1 (‘Case studies and harmonised multi-actor approach’) identified relevant stakeholders, developed guidelines for the establishment of MARG and carried out a series of MARG engagement activities in each CS. A CS management and information structure was established to facilitate the timely contribution of the CS to each task.
WP2 (‘Measures and indicators’) identified existing and potentially suitable NSWRM in the CS and developed tailored environmental and economic performance indicators to assess the effectiveness of NSWRM in the CS context. Existing examples of OPTAINs NSWRM are documented in the WOCAT SLM catalogue.
WP3 (‘Retrieval of modelling data and solutions to overcome data scarcity’) collected, derived and harmonised data with outstanding spatial and temporal resolution for the CS to enable environmental and socio-economic analysis. Guidelines and scripts to derive missing soil and crop data were developed and could be used for any environmental study carried out in Europe. OPTAIN’s pre-processing tools facilitate data compilation and help to adapt the input data to the requirements of both the catchment and field scale modelling approaches.
WP4 (‘Integrated assessment of NSWRM’) developed two modelling protocols, including many new and outstanding approaches, to guide the CS modellers in setting up their catchment and field scale models. Specifically, the new version of the Soil & Water Assessment Tool (SWAT+) and the Soil-Water-Atmosphere-Plant model (SWAP) are used in a highly standardised approach to ensure quality and comparability of the results across all CS.
WP5 (‘Optimisation of NSWRM plans’) supported WP 2-4 to ensure that models, data and scenario design are compatible to OPTAINs optimisation approach.
WP6 (‘Synthesis and policy recommendation’) prepared the synthesis of the project outcomes by establishing a common working environment for the outputs of the project partners. Based on an analysis of the local policy frameworks and a stakeholder survey on legislation and governance arrangements, OPTAIN developed its first policy brief on legislative recommendations for future harmonisation of water and agricultural policy.
WP7 (‘Dissemination, communication and Learning Environment’) developed OPTAINs communication/dissemination strategy and ensured the dissemination and uptake of OPTAINs outcomes through a powerful combination of direct/traditional (e.g. summer school, conferences, networking, MARG workshops) and digital methods and tools (e.g. website, social media, video, WOCAT, Learning Environment, scientific papers, reports). The first online version of the OPTAIN Learning Environment has been developed and will support the dissemination process in the next phase of the project.
WP8 (‘Project Management’) provided the necessary framework for an efficient project coordination, task management and communication.
OPTAIN is a scientific, knowledge-based project, and the dissemination and wider uptake of the knowledge generated is crucial for achieving impact on the target groups. Therefore, OPTAIN directly involves local actors, either as partners, or as stakeholder, to support the research and as end-users of the project results. Several hundred local stakeholders have been involved in OPTAINs direct engagement activities, sharing experiences on the impact and effectiveness, implementation potential and limiting factors of NSWRM, as well as local legislation and governance arrangements.
OPTAIN aims to harmonise its approaches across all 14 CS, which goes beyond the state of the art for large research projects. Guidelines and common protocols have been developed for stakeholder engagement, data retrieval, NSWRM documentation, policy analysis and modelling. OPTAINs innovative solutions, methods and tools for data retrieval and modelling will be a valuable benefit for the scientific community and professionals.
OPTAIN will contribute to a better understanding of the effectiveness of NSWRM across different climatic zones and will develop tools and approaches for the optimal combination and allocation of measures at the catchment scale. Findings on the environmental and economic performance of single and combined NSWRM implementation schemes under changing climate conditions will enable farmers to adapt their management, increase water availability and use efficiency, thereby securing farmers’ incomes and strengthening rural areas in Europe in the long term. Expert personnel and policy makers will be supported in their decision making processes, including the design of targeted and effective incentive systems.
OPTAIN general leaflet pt1
OPTAIN general leaflet pt2
OPTAIN case studies
OPTAIN core elements