Restored wetlands are a great example of Nature-based Solutions. They can retain more water during heavy rainfall events plus their presence increases biodiversity of the area.
Have you ever noticed that nature has some ingenious ways of dealing with changes? Natural systems can adjust to respond to changes in the environment or the climate, such as changing blooming cycles or growing slower during droughts. This can be also be a source of inspiration for us, as well. This is what we call Nature-based Solutions (NbS).
Nature-based Solutions are any actions that address challenges that societies are facing by protecting, sustainably managing, and restoring natural or modified ecosystems. These challenges can stem from environmental or climate changes and usually lead to threats in the sustainability of the communities where the changes occurred. Therefore, NbS aims to simultaneously provide human well-being and biodiversity benefits. Ecosystem-based Adaptation, which we have discussed in previous articles, is one example of NbS where green infrastructure can help a single residence to an entire community adapt to a change in climatic conditions. The addition of green spaces in an urban centre can also become a NbS if it helps reduce the heat island in the centre of that area and thus refreshes people during heatwaves. A heat island phenomenon occurs when an urban area is warmer than the surrounding rural area due to the replacement of vegetation with built structures that absorb and release heat throughout the day. Adding community garden plots into that green space has the added bonus of also helping residents produce food and reduce food insecurity.
NbS can also be combined with grey infrastructure (sewage drainage, permeable sidewalk, etc.) when physical modifications are needed to accommodate new natural systems. For instance, the impacts of a flash flood from heavy rainfall can be reduced by combining an upgrade to the municipal sewer system with the addition of little creeks or the restoration of removed or degraded wetlands from the surrounding area. This combination provides more locations where excess water can be stored, thus reducing the stress on the wastewater treatment plant.
NbS is based on equity, the inclusion of all sectors of society, and the restoration or protection of biological diversity as a top priority. Decisions can range from very local (neighbourhood) to a large landscape (regional), but in all cases, decisions should be transparent and integrate sustainable ideas and solutions for all. NbS are also a viable approach for meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring that basic societal needs are met in a safe and sustainable environment. These solutions can be quite innovative, and many of them are coming directly from people like you, who reside in the very community where these changes will have the biggest impact. Think about it—you may even have some ideas of your own!
The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg and Sam Gauthier) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.