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NbS Case Studies

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 for Economic Recovery

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.

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01 Mangrove restoration in Costa Rica

A pilot mangrove restoration project in Costa Rica has demonstrated how mangrove planting can benefit habitat and species conservation, whilst also boosting the local economy.

About 40% of Costa Rica’s mangroves were deforested following the collapse [...] Read more

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02 Marine Protected Areas in Vanuatu

Flexible management of marine protected areas around the Pacific Island of Vanuatu, has increased food security and income for local people during times of shortage. Vanuatu is highly vulnerable to natural hazards such as cyclones, [...] Read more

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03 Assisted Natural Regeneration in Burkina Faso

Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR) in Burkina Faso has improved provision of forest products for local people. ANR, in this case, involves construction of fences around areas of savanna, excluding grazing animals and allowing natural forest [...] Read more

Coastal Nature-based Solutions

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.

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01 Mangrove protection in India

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 [...] Read more

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02 Salt marshes in the Dutch Wadden Sea

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 [...] Read more

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03 Oyster reefs in Bangladesh and the Gulf of Mexico

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 [...] Read more

Montane Nature-based Solutions

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.

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01 Community forests in Nepal

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 [...] Read more

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02 Rehabilitating rangelands in Kenya

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 [...] Read more

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03 Restoring ancient water supplies in Peru

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: [...] Read more

Lowland Nature-based Solutions

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.

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01 Sustainable wetland management in Bangladesh

The Tanguar Haor wetland in Bangladesh provides a striking example of how decades of poor ecological management and violation of people’s rights can be turned around with dedicated collaborations of governments, NGOs and local people, [...] Read more

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02 Peatland restoration in Belarus

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 [...] Read more

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03 Forest regeneration in Ethiopia

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

Nature-based Agriculture

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.

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01 Integrated farming & forestry in Guatemala

An integrated nature-based farming and forestry approach in Guatemala has increased the resilience of local people to change, as shown by their better ability to cope with the implications of COVID-19 than communities without such [...] Read more

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02 Floating Agriculture in Bangladesh

Floating agriculture is a traditional practice in Bangladesh, which is now spreading between communities, allowing farmers to maintain or increase agricultural productivity in the face of increased monsoon season flooding. It [...] Read more

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03 Cocoa Agroforestry in Sierra Leone

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 [...] Read more

Blue and green infrastructure in urban environments

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.

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01 Urban trees in Wisconsin USA

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 [...] Read more

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02 Stormwater green infrastructure in the Mid-Atlantic USA

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 [...] Read more

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03 Knowledge Mile Park in The Netherlands

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 [...] Read more

UNEP Projects

The projects showcased here focus on Nbs for climate change adaptation and are being supported by the United Nations Environment Programme.

All NbS in action

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Montane Ecosystem-based Adaptation in Uganda

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 January 29, 2020

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Salt marshes in the Dutch Wadden Sea

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 January 29, 2020

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Oyster reefs in Bangladesh and the Gulf of Mexico

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 January 29, 2020

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Mangroves protected communities from Cyclone Bulbul

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 January 29, 2020

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Refugee camp gardens in Iraq

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 January 27, 2020

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Project Seagrass – restoring seagrass as an NbS in the UK

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 January 13, 2020

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Floating agriculture in Bangladesh

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 January 13, 2020

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