Human communities across the globe 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 from across the world of how working with nature is helping local people deal with the impacts of climate change.
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.
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.
Running garden competitions for residents of refugee camps in northern Iraq proved to be an effective way to help reconnect people with their natural surroundings and communities. Participants were able to [...] Read more
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 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
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
Sierra Leone’s tropical rainforest is under threat from intensive agriculture, mining, logging and slash and burn agriculture for cocoa plantations. One major effort to prevent this is the introduction of cocoa agroforestry so that cocoa can be produced sustainably on the same land for many years, diminishing the need for further deforestation. This project [...] Read more Tweet January 29, 2020
Near the Mount Elgon National Park in 2014-15, about 600 households received training in Ecosystem-based Adaptation measures to implement themselves. A number of different approaches were used, notably creation of trenches, ridges and dams to control the flow of water, and establishment of grass strips and planting [...] Read more Tweet January 29, 2020
The Dutch coast is protected from flooding by long dikes – earthen embakments along the shore that act as barriers to waves. Saltmarsh has been constructed on the seaward side of 25km of dike. To cope with sea level rise and increased frequency and severity of storms, [...] Read more Tweet January 29, 2020
Oyster reefs provide a barrier to waves, protecting coasts from the impact of storms and reducing erosion and flooding. However, about 85% of natural oyster reefs have been lost due to harvesting by humans. Artificial breakwater reefs can be made by placing bags of loose shells on the seabed, or by [...] Read more Tweet January 29, 2020
Evidence is emerging that the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest protected communities in India and Bangladesh from some of the worst impacts of Cyclone Bulbul on November 9th 2019. The forest is reported to have reduced wind speed by around 20 kilometres an hour and thereby protected the southern [...] Read more Tweet January 29, 2020
Running garden competitions for residents of refugee camps in northern Iraq proved to be an effective way to help reconnect people with their natural surroundings and communities. Participants were able to obtain plants from a local nursery and were given advice on how to safely recycle grey water for nurturing plants. [...] Read more Tweet January 27, 2020
Despite being the most overlooked marine habitat, seagrass meadows provide a number of important ecosystem services: they are nurseries for young fish that support about 20% of the world’s largest 25 fisheries, they sequester carbon about 35 times faster than tropical forests, they reduce coastal erosion, and are unique, biodiverse ecosystems. [...] Read more Tweet January 13, 2020
During our NbS workshop in Bangladesh, we learnt about floating agriculture – a traditional practice that is going to scale in Bangladesh, allowing farmers to maintain or increase agricultural productivity and nutritional diversity in the face of increased monsoon season flooding. It involves weaving together plants, most commonly the invasive water hyacinth, to form floating [...] Read more Tweet January 13, 2020