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.
Nature-based solutions can provide strong financial and well-being benefits for local communities and nations. They have been identified as one of the most efficient forms of economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19. Here we have selected a few examples of NbS projects which have delivered substantial benefits for local people in the form of goods, income, employment, and overall well-being, making them less vulnerable to both climatic impacts and societal instability.
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.
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.