CIIMAR – Nature-based solutions for water management and ecosystem services promotion


Sustainable urban water management urges for the use and treatment of water in an efficient and circular way. The use of nature-based solutions with the later purpose fosters the understanding of the structures and processes of ecosystems and societies. It is thus important to conceive solutions that deliver a fully integrated approach concerning their planning, design, and operation for cities.

Green roofs (GR) and floating wetlands islands (FWI), are two nature-based solutions that, in an urban context, play important roles concerning the ecosystem services and functions provided. This is relevant in order to support good practices towards application of these systems and to contribute to a strategy for climate change adaptation and mitigation, specially in coastal areas where information is scarce.

The presented approach sets environment and sustainability challenges, contributing for an integrated use of aquatic resources and mitigation of human activities impact on ecosystems, with potential economic valorization at a national and international level.


Neoturf, AISOL- Amorim Isolamentos S.A., ANCV-Associação Nacional de Coberturas Verdes, Ecolink, Administração dos Portos do Douro, Leixões e Viana do Castelo (APDL)


CIIMAR is a leading marine and environmental research and advanced training institution in Portugal, working on the frontier of knowledge and innovation. The center develops transdisciplinary and transnational research, promotes technological development and innovation and supports public policies and governance for sustainable development. CIIMAR fields of expertise cover three research domains: Global Changes and Ecosystem Services, Aquaculture and Seafood Quality, and Marine Biotechnology, addressing important economic and societal challenges and contributing to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals. The centre uses knowledge-based approaches to promote the natural capital and the sustained management of marine resources through monitoring of ecosystems health, optimization of aquaculture, and biotechnological exploitation of the resources for environmental and human health applications.

CIIMAR contributes to the regional ecosystem of innovation, being a founding member of the National Maritime Cluster–Forum Oceano and B2E–Association for the Blue Bioeconomy. To valorise the R&D knowledge outputs, the centre participates in innovation brokerage events and business fairs (e.g. Biomarine, European Maritime Days, Business to Sea).


This project is aligned with United Nations 2030 Agenda goals, namely Goal 11 – to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, and Sustainable Development, Goal 13 – to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, Goal 6 – ensure availability and sustainable management of water and Goal 14 – conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.


Green roofs

Implementation of green infrastructures, using green roofs, is gaining interest worldwide, not only following a trend but also foreseeing the several ecosystem services provided and the its strong positive impact on the environmental and socio-economic dynamics. They are highly dependent on plant establishment, which in turn, are directly interconnected with the substrate and associated biota. Although there is already research supporting this technology the knowledge is still scarce, when considering its application to coastal areas, where harsh climate conditions may arise.

The innovation of the proposed technology rests on the concerns about the construction materials for retrofit and new buildings, towards sustainable solutions and having in consideration the circular economy. For that, is was tested and proposed a green roof with an experimental and a commercial substrate, a drainage layer of expanded cork agglomerate (ICB – insulation cork board) (instead of traditional polypropylene) and autochthonous plants, typical of dune habitats. The technical panel GUL (Green Urban Living) of ICB has been developed by four Portuguese companies: AISOL- Amorim Isolamentos S.A., Neoturf, Itecons and Anqip. It is expected several benefits including thermal, biodiversity promotion and stormwater management, this latter two factors are particularly interesting concerning extreme climate events such as heavy rains/flooding’s and heat waves.

Future strategy includes the upscale of the solution in order to contribute to the resilience of modern and growing cities and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Floating Wetland Islands

A Floating Wetland Island is a technology based in phytoremediation processes, that intents to enhance water quality, promote biodiversity and ecosystem rehabilitation, mimicking natural processes. It has been tested in multiple contexts worldwide such for remediation of eutrophic lakes and stormwater, showing good results regarding reduction of nutrients levels and other types of pollutants. However, knowledge associated to the biocenosis of the platform and their ability for contaminant removal is still scarce and more research is needed to support this low cost and eco-friendly biotechnology, especially in port marina environments.

The major innovation in this project is thus to implement a robust and environmentally friendly on-site ecotechnology to promote water quality enhancement and ecosystem restoration in port marina environment. The floating platforms are coated with coconut fiber and were provided by Ecolink. At this stage there are in total four floating islands implemented in Leça marina and Leixões terminal marina with the support of APDL.


For the development and implementation of this project alliances were established with local stake-holders in order to:

-Develop solutions at roof top building (GR) assessing the establishment of autochthonous drought-tolerant plants in the coast line;

-Develop solutions for port marina (FWI) in order to promote ecosystem rehabilitation and water quality improvement;

-Involve local communities and to promote inclusive participatory practices in order to acknowledge the interventions with the FWIs and GR;

-Empower the local system through education (local stakeholders, policy makers and communities), capacitation and inclusive participatory practices.

Additional information:

Green roofs, as nature-based solutions (NBS), play important roles concerning the ecosystem services that provide and functions that play in urban context. Their implementation depends on geographic location, climate, construction detail and on the selected components.

The main focus of the present project is to evaluate the viability of selected green roof pilot system components under the climate coastal conditions, namely: plants, substrate and technical layers. Thus, the primary objective is to assess the plant establishment capacity in selected substrates, whose both specific properties lead to different patterns of biotic and abiotic parameters. Furthermore, was used for the first time in such conditions a water drainage and retention layer made of expanded cork agglomerate (ICB – insulation cork board) as a substitute of traditional layers made of polystyrene.

This will support a strategy to better select the green roof components to face coastal conditions and possible adaptations to climate change effects.

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