Nature-based solutions

Our work

IUCN engages in nature-based solutions to address major challenges (climate change, disaster risk reduction, food security and local economic development, restoration, health, biodiversity). We work to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural and modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively –simultaneously, providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.

Advance nature as a solution 

Investment in nature-based solutions helps safeguard and maintain ecosystems is vital for food and water supplies, protects against natural disasters and provides goods and services key to human well-being and economic development. Here are a few examples of how IUCN is advancing nature as a solution:

Set the global standard for NbS

In order to mainstream the concept, IUCN has developed a standard to facilitate the design, verification and scaling up of nature-based solutions. Developed via a highly collaborative process, the Global Standard for Nature-based solutions provides a common understanding and consensus on effective solutions.

As nature-based solutions are increasingly adopted into business as usual, a standard ensures the quality and credibility of the solutions, thus securing their effectiveness to provide benefits to both human well-being and biodiversity. The standard answers the demand for such a product from the user community consisting of governments, donors of public funding, international financial institutions including development banks, the private sector and non-profit organisations.

Comprised of eight criteria with associated indicators, a background document and self-assessment tool, the Global Standard for Nature-based solutions will be launched at the 2020 IUCN World Conservation Congress.

Develop and promote NbS tools

Nature-based solutions bring together established ecosystem-based approaches, such as ecosystem-based adaptation and ecological engineering with social and economic dimensions. While this is still a relatively new concept, the approach has been around for many centuries. 

IUCN recommends using common good governance and management approaches, as well as several ecosystem-based frameworks and tools that could be useful in the design, implementation and monitoring phases.

Guatemala Photo: IUCN / Patricia Ugalde



Ecological restoration for protected areas:
principles, guidelines and best practices

This IUCN publication, produced with four partners, is a guide for terrestrial, marine and freshwater protected area managers at both system and site levels on the restoration of natural and associated values of protected areas

Qualification criteria and quality standards for Ecosystem-based Adaptation

Providing a practical assessment framework for designing, implementing and monitoring ecosystem-based adaptation measures.

Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM)

ROAM, produced by IUCN and the World Resources Institute (WRI), provides a flexible and affordable framework for countries to rapidly identify and analyse areas that are primed for forest landscape restoration and identify specific priority areas at a national or sub-national level.

Natural Resource Governance Framework (NRGF)

Built upon numerous regional scoping studies and an expert-led process, the Natural Resource Governance Framework (NRGF) is an IUCN initiative created to provide a robust, inclusive, and credible approach to assessing and strengthening natural resource governance.

Implementing nature-based flood protection:
principles and implementation guidance

This document, produced under the aegis of the World Bank, presents five principles and guidance on the evaluation, design and implementation of nature-based solutions for flood risk management as an alternative to or complementary to conventional engineering measures.


An Union-wide effort on NbS 

More evidence-based guidance is needed for decision makers and investors to ensure nature-based solutions move beyond site-based examples and pilot projects, and instead are deployed at scale to ensure the maximum benefits for society and nature.

Terraced landscape Rice fields in Mucangchai, Vietnam Terraced landscape Rice fields in Mucangchai, Vietnam Photo: Shutterstock / Jimmy Tran Business and biodiversity

Nature-based solutions directly effect a company’s bottom line. Whether it is restoring degraded land or enhancing existing water infrastructure, nature-based solutions do not only help business minimise their biodiversity impacts but it is an opportunity for business to pro-actively invest in nature and sustain their access to natural resources. Companies can become main contributors to scale up nature-based solutions that will provide more resilience to natural disasters, unpredictable weather and supply chain disruptions, while at the same time, advancing innovation and contributing to climate-resilient landscapes.

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Fishing Photo: D Wodehouse

Ecosystem management

Nature-based solutions do not take place in isolation and depend on the sustainable use and management of ecosystems. Healthy ecosystems provide goods and services such as food, fuel, construction materials, clean water and air, and protection from natural hazards. IUCN promotes the sound management of ecosystems through the wider application of the Ecosystem Approach – a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that places human needs at its centre

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Coffee plantation near Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar Coffee plantation near Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar Photo: iStock


Forests and healthy forest landscapes retain and filter water, hold soils intact, store carbon, provide habitat for biodiversity, and goods and services for people. Forest landscape restoration builds or rebuilds sustainable landscapes. Protecting forests, including primary forests, and working with countries to develop and implement effective forest and land-use policies that meet national and global goals on climate, biodiversity and sustainable development plays a big role in nature-based solutions.  

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Sanmarcos Photo: IUCN / Patricia Ugalde

Governance and rights

Nature-based solutions prioritise equitable governance, valuing a more systematic adoption of rights-based approaches. Healthy landscapes, water and seascapes thrive when the differentiated views, experiences and knowledge of all people, including women and indigenous peoples, are included in natural resource governance decision-making. Working inclusively, communities are better enabled to solve societal, livelihood, food security, resilience and climate change-related challenges through conservation and sustainable development by directly shaping a just world that conserves nature.

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Biorocks of coral reefs, Indonesia Biorocks of coral reefs in Gili, Lombok, Nusa Tenggara Barat, Indonesia underwater photo.  Photo: Shutterstock


Coral reefs, mangroves and other intertidal wetland ecosystems reduce the impact of storm surges, cyclones and tsunamis while providing a vital source of food and materials to resource-dependent communities. Some, like mangroves, also efficiently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Sustainable mariculture, as part of a well-managed coastal zone, can provide food security and reduce dependence on wild-caught seafood

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mangrove forest dissecting a city scape Photo: By Portal da CopaME /,_Pernamb


Well managed urban forests, rivers, parks and wetlands provide habitat for a range of species, and reduce air pollution, limit flooding, improve water quality, store carbon and improve city-dwellers’ health and wellbeing. With proper planning and management, nature-based solutions can provide billions of dollars of costs savings in reduced risks while retaining substantial components of native biodiversity, transforming cities into ecologically healthy, sustainable and resilient places to live.    

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Quang Nguyen vinh Quang Nguyen vinh Photo: Pixabay


Nature-based solutions from water refer to ecosystem services such as rivers functioning as channels for navigation, mangroves protecting shorelines from storms, wetlands filtering contaminated water, lakes storing large water supplies, and floodplains absorbing excess water runoff. These natural services perform an infrastructure-like function, shaped, grown, eroded or deposited by nature over time.

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Girls walking on a mountain road Photo: IUCN / Emily Goodwin

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