Nature-based solutions: what’s new?

The past two years of NATURVATION research have included much debate on what we, the NATURVATION project team, and other researchers and practitioners working with nature-based solutions actually refer to when using this concept. When can we call an urban greening intervention or initiative a nature-based solution? And does the concept differ from related concepts, such as Green Infrastructure? Driven by these debates, NATURVATION researcher Hade Dorst carried out a literature review of over 50 academic articles on nature-based solutions, and together with her Utrecht University colleagues Sander van der Jagt, Hens Runhaar and Rob Raven wrote an article on how the concept of NBS is currently understood within the broader discourse on urban greening.


The article, written for an audience of urban planning professionals and academics (and currently only available in Dutch) aims to outline what characteristics set the concept of nature-based solutions apart from the related concepts of Green Infrastructure (GI) and Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EBA). These three concepts share several defining characteristics: each is aimed at developing nature-based interventions with high multifunctionality, delivering social, environmental and economic benefits simultaneously. This brings a risk of fragmented governance and implementation processes due to the various interests involved, which is why holistic and participatory governance approaches are required. Yet the review also revealed key differences. The three concepts vary regarding perspectives on what qualifies as ‘nature’, and related to that, around what qualifies as a nature-based intervention. As nature-based solution operationalisations cover the broadest range including EBA and GI types of interventions, it often acts as an umbrella term for all kinds of nature-based interventions. The nature-based solutions concept further stands out by its explicit solution-orientation, which means it can provide a common language for actors with different backgrounds aiming to address urban sustainability challenges, particularly in urban areas.