are the benefits?

Nature-based solutions (NBSs) are defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”. NBSs are growing in importance and range, and have become a priority for urban and rural planners. NBSs cover a whole range of ecosystem-related approaches, viz.:

  • Ecosystem restoration approaches;
  • Issue-specific ecosystem-related approaches;
  • Infrastructure-related approaches;
  • Ecosystem-based management approaches; and
  • Ecosystem protection approaches.

The NBS Concept

Building on and supporting other closely related concepts, such as the ecosystem approach, ecosystem services, ecosystem-based adaptation/mitigation, and green and blue infrastructure. They all recognise the importance of nature and require a systemic approach to environmental change based on an understanding of the structure and functioning of ecosystems, including human actions and their consequences. NBSs, however, have a distinctive set of premises:

  • some societal challenges stem from human activities that have failed to recognise ecological limitations;

  • sustainable alternatives to those activities can be found by looking to nature for design and process knowledge.


They, therefore, involve the innovative application of knowledge about nature, inspired and supported by nature, and they maintain and enhance natural capital. They are positive responses to societal challenges and can have the potential to simultaneously meet environmental, social and economic objectives.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 824711.


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MICS, 2019-2021
Photo credits: River Restoration Centre