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Increasing biodiversity and productivity of marginal lands through MarginUp!


The MarginUp! project, funded by the Horizon Europe framework programme, has been launched with the aim of increasing the potential of biodiversity and the production of bio-based industrial raw materials on marginal lands. The project is coordinated by the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy (ATB) and brings together 29 partners from eight European countries and two international asociated entities (Argentina and South Africa) from the agriculture and bioeconomy sectors.

MarginUp! will develop sustainable and circular value chains to produce bio-products and biofuels from natural raw materials grown on marginal lands. By introducing climate-resilient and biodiversity-friendly non-food crops on marginal and low-productivity land, MarginUp! will increase the resilience of agricultural systems, enhance biodiversity and promote stakeholder participation.

This four-year project officially started in December 2022 and has received a total grant of just under seven million euros from the European Commission under Horizon Europe’s “Sectors of the circular economy and bioeconomy” programme.

Zabala Innovation will be working on the project from three different perspectives. It will support all coordination actions, it will work on Social Innovation actions including tasks such as stakeholder engagement and stakeholder mapping, and it will also work on some Communication and Dissemination issues.

Background on MarginUp!

Currently, between 60& to 70% of European soils are unhealthy as a result of land management practices, pollution, intensive agriculture, urbanisation and the effects of climate change. Because of this and other biophysical constraints that limit agricultural productivity, almost 30% of the EU region is classified as marginal agricultural land, i.e. land of low agricultural or development value because the crops grown on it are worth less than the rents paid for access to the area. Further degradation of this land will lead to further biodiversity loss and ecosystem damage, making the land and surrounding ecosystems more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including desertification.

MarginUp! proposes solutions to secure the use and profitability of marginal lands, while enhancing biodiversity by cultivating climate-resilient and biodiversity-friendly non-food plants for the sustainable production of industrial raw materials on marginal lands. This will provide an abundant local source of renewable raw materials for the production of high-value bio-based products while contributing to ecosystem restoration and health.

Learning from the field: seven case studies

MarginUp! is based on learning from seven case studies: five implementations across Europe (Spain, Greece, Sweden, Germany and Hungary), as well as use cases in Argentina and South Africa, which together increase the replication potential of the project results. The 29 consortium partners will work together to identify best practices for the sustainable production of biomass and bio-based products that safeguard biodiversity and local ecosystems.

Each use case takes into account the current use and properties of the area and proposes crops and crop rotation strategies that enhance biodiversity and increase soil productivity according to local requirements, from Mediterranean soils in Spain to mining lands in Greece, boreal soils in Sweden, wetlands in Germany, desert lands in Hungary, degraded pastures in Argentina and bush encroachment areas in South Africa.

The proposed crops create a sustainable supply of resources to foster the development of bioeconomy enterprises at local and regional scales, while providing ecosystem benefits and increasing resilience to climate change.

Through these actions, MarginUp! contributes directly to European climate neutrality targets and policies such as the European Green Deal, the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Bioeconomy Strategy and the EU Soil Strategy.

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