Commission on Ecosystem Management

Nature-based Solutions

Mangrove nursery in Costa Rica Photo: Marco Quesada

Defining Nature-based Solutions

What are Nature-based Solutions?

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are defined by IUCN as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”.

Overarching goal of Nature-based Solutions

NbS are intended to support the achievement of society’s development goals and safeguard human well-being in ways that reflect cultural and societal values and enhance the resilience of ecosystems, their capacity for renewal and the provision of services. NbS are designed to address major societal challenges, such as food security, climate change, water security, human health, disaster risk, social and economic development.

Nature-based Solutions principles

A list of preliminary principles was developed for NbS. To define that list, several existing frameworks were analysed (e.g. Ecosystem Approach and its principles, Ecosystem Services approach, the original list of principles for NbS in the 2013-2016 IUCN Programme.

A set of NbS principles, to be considered in conjunction with the NbS definition, will be essential in providing a full understanding of NbS for IUCN. The eight proposed NbS principles are as follows:

Nature-based Solutions:

1. Embrace nature conservation norms (and principles);

2. can be implemented alone or in an integrated manner with other solutions to societal challenges (e.g. technological and engineering solutions);

3. are determined by site-specific natural and cultural contexts that include traditional, local and scientific knowledge;

4. produce societal benefits in a fair and equitable way, in a manner that promotes transparency and broad participation;

5. maintain biological and cultural diversity and the ability of ecosystems to evolve over time;

6. are applied at a landscape scale;

7. recognise and address the trade-offs between the production of a few immediate economic benefits for development, and future options for the production of the full range of ecosystems services; and

8. are an integral part of the overall design of policies, and measures or actions, to address a specific challenge.

Nature-based Solutions as an umbrella concept for ecosystem-related approaches

In framing NbS and considering its applications, it is useful to think of it as an umbrella concept that covers a whole range of ecosystem-related approaches all of which address societal challenges. These approaches can be placed into five main categories, as shown in the following table.

Category of NbS Approaches Examples
Ecosystem restoration approaches
  • Ecological restoration
  • Ecological Engineering
  • Forest landscape restoration
Issue-specific ecosystem-related approaches
  • Ecosystem-based adaptation
  • Ecosystem-based mitigation
  • Climate adaptation services
  • Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction
Infrastructure-related approaches
  • Natural infrastructure
  • Green infrastructure
Ecosystem-based management approaches
  • Integrated coastal zone management
  • Integrated water resources management
Ecosystem protection approaches
  • Area-based conservation approaches, including protected area management

These approaches, most of which actually predate the emergence of NbS, generally fulfil the NbS definition. They also share many similarities, for example in terms of the ecosystem services they address and the types of interventions they involve. These approaches can therefore not only be clustered together under NbS as the overarching concept (see next figure for the IUCN NbS conceptual framework), but also contribute to the development of an operational framework for NbS.

Nature-based SolutionsConceptual framework on Nature-based Solutions as an umbrella term for ecosystem-related approaches. 

Related work at IUCN

Contacts

CEM Group lead: Emmanuelle Cohen-Shacham (minacs@gmail.com)

CEM Focal point: Angela Andrade (Angela.ANDRADE@iucn.org)

WCPA Focal Point: Nigel Dudley (nigel@equilibriumresearch.com

Secretariat: Gretchen Walters (Gretchen.WALTERS@iucn...), Stewart Maginnis

Special Advisors:

Rudolf de Groot, Wageningen University, The Netherlands (dolf.degroot@wur.nl)

Sasha Alexander, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia (sashaalexander108@gma...)

Work area: 
Ecosystems
Location: 
Global
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