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Nature-based solutions

What are NBSs?

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 range, and have become a priority for urban and rural planners. They 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

NBS science builds on and supports other closely related concepts, such as the ecosystem approach, ecosystem services, ecosystem-based adaptation/mitigation, and green and blue infrastructure. These concepts recognize the importance of nature and 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.

Best practice and related projects

A document recently published by the European Union summarizes the state of the art in EU-funded projects relating to Nature Based Solutions for flood mitigation and coastal resilience. The full report is available to read here: Nature-based solutions for flood mitigation and coastal resilience

ThinkNature - Development of a multi-stakeholder dialogue platform and thinktank to promote innovation with NBSs []

The main objective of ThinkNature is the development of a multi-stakeholder communication platform that will support the understanding and the promotion of NBSs at the local, regional, EU and international level. Through dialogue facilitation and steering mechanisms as well as capacity building, the ThinkNature platform will bring together multi-disciplinary scientific expertise, policy, business and society, as well as citizens. This platform will be attractive to a wide variety of actors and stakeholders because it merges all aspects of NBSs in a clear, pyramidal, methodological approach, with a wide geographical scope. As a result, ThinkNature will provide the necessary policy and regulatory tools to solve significant societal challenges such as human well-being and tackling energy poverty through continuous dialogue and interaction.


MICS included several case studies which brought together community groups and local authorities to co-design new citizen-science initiatives around nature-based solutions.

In Italy, school children and other locals monitored wetlands’ impacts on the Marzenego River’s water quality. They also developed their own method for measuring levels of bacteria.

In Romania, citizen scientists investigated the impact of Danube-wetland restoration on water quality and bank stability.

The project, in Hungary, surveyed water quality and biodiversity to promote the restoration of Creek Rákos.

In the UK, MICS worked with two established citizen-science projects, Outfall Safari and Riverfly, to evaluate their impacts