Nature-Based Solutions

Fundamental Actions for Change

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines nature-based solutions (also referred to as NBS) as “actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural and modified ecosystems in ways that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, to provide both human well-being and biodiversity benefits. They are underpinned by benefits that flow from healthy ecosystems and target major challenges like climate change, disaster risk reduction, food and water security, health and are critical to economic development.” 

The University of Oxford’s Nature-Based Solutions Initiative adds that NBS are “grounded in the knowledge that healthy natural and managed ecosystems produce a diverse range of services on which human wellbeing depends.” Additionally, University of Oxford clarifies that NBS is an “umbrella concept” for a variety of approaches that utilize nature, including ecosystem-based adaptation, ecosystem-based mitigation, eco-disaster risk reduction, green infrastructure, and natural climate solutions.

Inspired and Supported by Nature

Adding to this concept of NBS is the European Commission definition: “solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. Such solutions bring more, and more diverse, nature and natural features and processes into cities, landscapes and seascapes, through locally adapted, resource-efficient and systemic interventions.”

NBS provide multiple benefits to environment, economy, and society simultaneously, which speaks to the value of these interventions for urban and peri-urban communities; however the current use of NBS is “marginal, fragmented and highly uneven between cities” (McCormick, 2020) and resources such as this Guide aim to help mainstream these valuable interventions. Consultation and collaboration with local Indigenous communities are paramount to the success of NBS and ensuring their implementation benefits all facets of society.

The inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge in planning of NBS is critical to its success. Ensuring Indigenous Knowledge Systems "form an equal part in policy development, programs and decision making yields richer and more balanced outcomes for maintaining ecosystems and their services"[1] and can lead to more successful implementation of NBS in communities. 

Practical Applications

The NBS Implementation Overviews section of the Guide contains information on many types of NBS applications in use, as well as links to case studies from across Alberta and beyond. Included in this inventory are conservation and preservation of existing natural ecosystems, constructed or renaturalized wetlands, bioswales, rain gardens, dry ponds, riparian zone restoration, permeable surfaces, floodplain restoration, soil bioengineering, naturalization and placemaking in vacant or barren landscapes including brownfields, urban forests and tree-planting, greenbelts, wetlands for water treatment, green roofs and walls, green schools, permaculture and xeriscaping, low-impact development, park development and allocation, urban and community gardens, wildlife corridors, and biological weed management.