Nature-based Solutions: New Influence for Environmental Management and Research in Europe

Published on September 6, 2015

In this paper on Nature-based Solutions (NBS), the authors provide three key recommendations: 

Calling for innovative NBS should not imply loosing track of existing ones

NBS are often referred to as innovative, but they should not include exclusively “new” solutions.Whilst the NBS concept offers new opportunities and brings added-value, it also encompasses existing ideas and requires inclusion of lessons from the past. Local and traditional knowledge should also be considered when exploring NBS. Traditional management systems (e.g., for agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, fishing) and their principles should be re-assessed in light of NBS criteria, as they often include sustainable, locally-adapted and biodiversity-enhancing practices. For example, engineered biodiverse pastures developed in Portugal in the 1960s and 1970s provide higher yields of better quality forage, significantly increase sustainable stocking rates, and have multiple environmental co-benefits(Teixeira et al. 2015).This could be a typical NBS unrecognized as such so far.

NBS should exploit win-win situations but will have to cope with trade-offs and uncertainties
NBS should account for multiple interests (in particular environ - mental, societal, and economic ones) and promote sustainability. Yet, there will be few win-win situations where all goals are simultaneously met. Documenting and analyzing the possible synergies and trade-offs between ES and stakeholders’ expectations will therefore be at the heart of identifying and implementing NBS. In addition, stakeholders and policy makers must remain aware of the complexities and uncertainties that surround NBS. Assessing the risks associated with a given NBS should be compulsory and alternative solutions should be envisaged, looking at the potential impacts through time and space, and accounting for future environmental changes.Otherwise,NBS could generate problems instead of solutions (e. g., species introduced for pest control can become invasive, if corresponding controls are lacking).

NBS could help meet various ethical, intellectual and relational challenges
NBS clearly build on, and share aspects with other concepts, approaches and tools, but might be more holistic and have more potential to support environmental sustainability. More specifically, the NBS approach may help meet three types of challenges – ethical, intellectual, relational – that other concepts have not completely addressed so far (Jones 2011; but see Hauck et al. 2013).


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(Eggermont, Hilde & Balian, E & N Azevedo, Manuel & Beumer, Victor & Brodin, Tomas & Claudet, Joachim & Fady, Bruno & Grube, Martin & Keune, Hans & Lamarque, Penelope & Reuter, Katrin & Smith, Matt & Ham, Chantal & W Weisser, Wolfgang & Roux, X. (2015). Nature-based Solutions: New Influence for Environmental Management and Research in Europe. Gaia: Okologische Perspektiven in Natur-, Geistes- und Wirtschaftswissenschaften. 24. 243 - 248. 10.14512/gaia.24.4.9.)