Human communities have been working with nature for millennia to buffer the impacts of environmental change. We must learn from them and ensure that their knowledge informs policy and practice around the world. On this page you will find some real-life examples of when working with nature is helping local people deal with the impacts of climate change, as well as improving ecosystem health and storing carbon.
Coastal ecosystems such as coral and shellfish reefs, seagrass meadows, mangrove forests and salt marshes act as physical barriers to waves, reducing the impact they have on the shore. In this way they can reduce coastal flooding and erosion; it’s estimated that 35% of people that are exposed to coastal floods benefits from nature-based storm surge mitigation. They also support biodiversity and fisheries, and sequester lots of carbon. Read more.
In the mountains, protecting and restoring native vegetation on slopes can help prevent or reduce the effects of landslides and erosion while protecting communities downstream from the effects of floods. At the same time, working with nature in this way stores carbon and protects both biodiversity and local livelihoods, as shown in these community-led projects.
Nature-based solutions also have much to offer in lowland landscapes. Here flood mitigation is of great importance, alongside multiple other benefits like biodiversity conservation and carbon storage.
The township of Humbo in Ethiopia had lost most of its surrounding forests by the late 1960s, but a recent initiative is turning this around. 2700 hectares of degraded native forest have been [...] Read more
The re-conversion of winter cereal fields into grassland contributed to the cessation of winter floods in a downstream housing estate in the South Downs of England. In the mid-1980s grassland in the catchment was [...] Read more
There are a wide range of agricultural practices that take advantage of biodiversity and ecosystem services to help increase the ability of crops or livestock to adapt to climate change. They include on-farm practices such as using mulching or local species as cover crops to help maintain soil structure, planting of trees as windbreaks, and management of trees in agroforestry (trees and crops) or silvopastoral systems (trees and livestock). At the landscape scale, they include managing tree cover, especially along rivers, to improve water provisioning, or increasing the heterogeneity of agricultural landscapes in order to reduce the severity of disease outbreaks and improve pollination services.
Nature-based solutions can be used in combination with man-made infrastructure in cities to benefit people and nature simultaneously. Trees, vegetation and green roofs can reduce flood risk, improve water quality, be used for food production, and ameliorate the urban heat island effect. Moreover, there is evidence that increasing urban biodiversity benefits human health and wellbeing.
To explore Urban NbS in Europe, see the Naturavation Atlas.
Trees have been shown to cause significant cooling in Madison, Wisconsin. Trees have a cooling effect due to reflecting more sunlight than darker surfaces, and the latent heat of evaporation from leaves. The study showed that daytime air temperature decreased with increasing canopy cover; for example, increasing canopy cover from 0-100% corresponded with a [...] Read more Tweet February 20, 2020
Use of vegetation in urban areas in the Mid-Atlantic watersheds of Washington DC, Montgomery County and Baltimore County MD, has reduced flooding and nutrient runoff. The ‘stormwater green infrastructure’ in these municipalities includes green roofs, bioswales, rain gardens and stormwater ponds. By increasing infiltration and groundwater recharge, and/or evaporation, they reduce the volume [...] Read more Tweet February 20, 2020
Balarus is leading the way for peat restoration in Europe. Peatlands cover about 23% of the country, but most of it is degraded or drained. The country’s peatlands have long been seen primarily as a resource for agriculture and energy, but since the 1990s efforts have been made to protect, restore, and sustainably use [...] Read more Tweet February 19, 2020
The township of Humbo in Ethiopia had lost most of its surrounding forests by the late 1960s, but a recent initiative is turning this around. 2700 hectares of degraded native forest have been restored since 2006 through a community-based project. The forest was regenerated using a method called farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) [...] Read more Tweet February 19, 2020
The re-conversion of winter cereal fields into grassland contributed to the cessation of winter floods in a downstream housing estate in the South Downs of England. In the mid-1980s grassland in the catchment was converted into cereal crops, resulting in the soil holding less water and reducing the amount of rain required for flooding [...] Read more Tweet February 19, 2020
Mangrove forests in eastern India were shown to protect villages and crops from flooding during a cyclone with 260km/hr winds and a 9m storm surge. The mangroves had been protected from deforestation and overexploitation since 1985. A comparison of inundation and damage between villages found that those further away from mangroves suffered more extensive [...] Read more Tweet February 18, 2020
Many community forest projects have been set up in Nepal. A study of 105 of these found that they have been broadly successful for both increasing carbon sequestration and providing social benefits. The projects have been strengthened as part of the United Nations Reduced Emissions through Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+), which provides [...] Read more Tweet February 13, 2020
Land degradation is a widespread problem in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the majority of agricultural soil being degraded. One of the main causes of degradation is overgrazing, but this can be combated by use of enclosures for livestock. This involves dividing communal land into smaller sections where grazing is concentrated, either with physical fencing [...] Read more Tweet February 13, 2020
A community-based NbS project in the Peruvian Andes improved water provisioning whilst permitting grazing of livestock, and has sparked funding and interest in ecosystem-based water management in Peru. An ancient mamenteo canal was restored: a technology that predates the Incan Empire and diverts water from streams during the wet season, increasing infiltration in mountain [...] Read more Tweet February 13, 2020
A mile-long park is being constructed along a highly polluted street in Amsterdam, incorporating multiple nature-based solutions. The project was launched in 2015 by the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, and is being created through collaboration of 100 companies, 30 thousand residents and 60 thousand students.