Thinking in Systems, Thinking in Nature: Evaluating the long-term performance of Nature Based Solutions


Climate change impacts and the ongoing environmental degradation are reducing the resilience and adaptation capacity of European socio-environmental systems. Since the beginning of this century, the role of nature has increasingly been seen as a crucial component to cope with climate change impacts while improving the resilience of ecosystems and society. Enhancing and protecting natural capital and its associated ecosystem services have become the core of action of different national and international development policies. The concept of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) is being emphasised as an opportunity to address biodiversity and climate crisis simultaneously. The critical element differentiating NBS from other adaptation approaches is their capability of producing several benefits simultaneously. This approach highlights the relevance of nature and suggests the adoption of a systematic approach that considers at the same level of importance the social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainable development. Despite their potential, several barriers and the short compilation of evidence on NBS effectiveness are limiting the total uptake of the concept into national development policies and adaptation actions. Consequently, the central focus of this research is to explore ways to operationalise the NBS concept for adaptation and sustainable development planning. For that, this dissertation seeks to increase the evidence-based on the long-term effectiveness of NBS for addressing different societal challenges. This research has critically evaluated the NBS concept as well as the main trade-offs in their long-term performance. In this sense, different approaches have been proposed to improve the decision-making process and the adaptation capacity of NBS. The study is divided into four consecutive chapters that explore different aspects relevant to the design and implementation of NBS. Stakeholders engagement and participatory modelling approaches have been the backbone of this research. For this reason, the conceptual and methodological assessment of NBS carried out in this study, has been tested and validated by end-users and stakeholders in two case studies, Copenhagen city and Medina Del Campo Groundwater Body (Spain).
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