Nature-based solutions to reduce antibiotics, pathogens and antimicrobial resistance in aquatic ecosystems

Addressing Theme 3.3, this project will assess nature-based solutions (NBS) as management option for water treatment on the catchment scale. An array of NBS including conventional and high-end constructed wetlands, river re-naturalization, and restoration of wetlands will cover the continuum from urban sources to coastal biota in estuaries. We propose a comprehensive quantification of the fate of ABs, pathogens, and AMR in these systems together with ecotoxicological and human health assessments. NBS performance will be analysed using multivariate modelling techniques to identify parameters with the greatest empirical influence on the attenuation of targeted pollutants. The NATURE project will encompass three interconnected phases: An experimental phase in which the reduction of aquatic pollutants will be evaluated in NBS and compared with reference sites. In a data modelling phase, diagnostic indicators (indicative parameters from the first phase) will be identified for cost-effective future monitoring. In a risk assessment phase, the effect of aquatic pollutants on environment and human health will be evaluated, estimating its reduction due to NBS implementation. The unique combination of advanced approaches from analytical chemistry, molecular microbiology, modelling and ecotoxicology will be of paramount importance for an accurate evaluation of NBS treatment performance. NATURE’s key objective is to promote the sustainable and green attenuation of aquatic pollutants.



Nature based solutions, pollutants, reduction, indicators, risk assessment


Achievements so far

The Nature project has revealed variable concentrations of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in wastewater samples from small, decentralised treatment plants in Denmark. Trimethoprim was most abundant in Danish pre-treated wastewater, while clindamycin and azithromycin dominated Spanish secondary treated wastewater. When comparing natural-based solutions (NBS) with conventional treatments, NBS showed higher removal rates of antibiotics and AMR. For example, conventional tertiary treatment removed 40% of the identified antibiotics, while NBS achieved 70-80% removal. Stream restoration increased antibiotic removal by 30-40%. In a Portuguese estuary, low levels of several micropollutants were detected, with anti-inflammatory and analgesic compounds being the most abundant. The study in Mali identified hospital wastewater as a significant source of antibiotics with concentrations above 30,000 ng/L. The expected impact of the final results includes informing stakeholders on the implementation of NBS in aquatic ecosystems, reducing costs and promoting environmental benefits compared to current technologies such as advanced oxidation or membrane-based approaches.

If you're interested in scientific publications associated with NATURE, click here.


Project Coordinator:
Dr. Víctor Matamoros,
Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Studies (IDAEA) – Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Spain


Communication & Dissemination Contact:
Ana Sotres


Partner Institutions:
Aarhus University – Denmark

CIIMAR-Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research – Portugal

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, UFZ, Environmental Biotechnology – Germany

Kilian Water Ltd. – Denmark

École Nationale d’Ingénieurs – Abderhamane BabaTouré (ENI-ABT) – Mali

Project Website