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:
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||
|Issue-specific ecosystem-related approaches||
|Ecosystem-based management approaches||
|Ecosystem protection approaches||
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.
Conceptual framework on Nature-based Solutions as an umbrella term for ecosystem-related approaches.
Related work at IUCN
- Panorama Partnership Initiative
- Global Ecosystem Management Programme:
- Global Water Programme:
- Global Protected Areas Programme:
- Global Forest and Climate Change Programme:
- Global Marine and Polar Programme:
- Regional Offices & National Committees:
- IUCN Regional Office for Oceania work on NbS, through the Water and Wetlands Programme and Pacific mangroves initiatives
- IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation work to empower civil society for the sustainable use of natural resources through NbS
- IUCN Europe work on NbS in the urban context, with local and regional government
- IUCN French National Committee work on NbS
CEM Group lead: Emmanuelle Cohen-Shacham (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CEM Focal point: Angela Andrade (Angela.ANDRADE@iucn.org)
WCPA Focal Point: Nigel Dudley (email@example.com)
Secretariat: Gretchen Walters (Gretchen.WALTERS@iucn...), Stewart Maginnis
Rudolf de Groot, Wageningen University, The Netherlands (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sasha Alexander, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia (sashaalexander108@gma...)