Nature-based solutions

Nature-based solutions are inspired and supported by natural processes and are increasingly recognized to provide significant social, ecological and economic benefits for cities in deltas. Examples of nature-based solutions include green roofs, city parks and urban lakes, being used to improve the urban climate and absorb water during extreme rainfall events. Despite these apparent advantages, nature-based solutions are not widely applied.

Upscaling nature-based solutions in urban areas across Europe

Encountered barriers

In the large transdisciplinary project NATURVATION, Hens Runhaar, associate professor of nature-inclusive planning and agriculture, and colleagues identified structural barriers of upscaling nature-based solutions in six urban areas across Europe. Hens Runhaar explains, "The most important barriers are getting projects funded, competition with vested interests and lack of space, cooperation and proper assessment of the benefits of nature-based solutions". Importantly, barriers differ per country which requires site-specific approaches of applying nature-based solutions.

Contribution of NATURVATION in the Netherlands

In Utrecht (The Netherlands), the project generated input to the environmental visions of Utrecht city, as well as a business model puzzle, as a dialogue tool for nature-based solution funding, used in Manchester, Melbourne and by the European Commission.

High angle view of the skyline of Rotterdam with the Euromast and Erasmus bridge, and a green roof in the foreground
Green roof in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Credits:

Mangrove-based solutions in the Mekong delta

Flood protection and economic benefit

Provided that enough space is available in urban coastal zones, mangroves can be planted or regenerated and used as a nature-based solution. While mangroves protect against coastal flooding and erosion, they also provide economic opportunities in terms of shrimp farming.

To ensure the livelihood of farmers, active involvement from local stakeholders is crucial

Annisa Triyanti, postdoctoral researcher on water and climate governance in deltas, studies the governance perspective of mangrove-based solutions in coastal areas. She is analysing factors that influence the impact of international boundary organisations, which are associations created to mediate between science and policy, during the implementation of mangrove-shrimp farming in the Mekong delta. She found, “To ensure the livelihood of the involved farmers, active involvement from local governments and stakeholders in the entire value chain, including commercial sea food companies, is crucial”.  International boundary organisations facilitated this collaboration.

Room for improvement

However, there was room for improvement concerning their performance: in the future, international boundary organisations need to ensure the integration of local knowledge into projects and policymaking processes and find long-term solutions to balance mangrove-shrimp farming and conservation.

Photo of growth of young green mangroves
Mangrove regeneration. Credits: