Leonard Sandin1, Isabel Seifert-Dähnn1, Ingvild Skumlien Furuseth1, Annette Baattrup-Pedersen2, Dominik Zak2, Johanna Alkan Olsson3, Helena Hanson3, Samaneh Sadat Nickayin4, Maria Wilke4, Matti Koivula5, Marika Rastas5, Caroline Enge1, Kristina Øie Kvile1, Lisa Lorentzi Wall3, Carl Christian Hoffmann2, and Rúna Þrastardóttir4
1 Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA)
2 Aarhus University (AU)
3 Lund University (LU)
4 Agricultural University of Iceland (AUI)
5 Natural Resource Institute Finland (Luke)
Sandin, L., Seifert-Dähnn, I., Furuseth, I.S., Baattrup-Pedersen, A., Zak, D., Alkan Olsson, J., Hanson, H., Sadat Nickayin, S., Wilke, M., Koivula, M., Rastas, M., Enge, C., Øie Kvile, K., Lorentzi Wall, L., Hoffmann, C.C. and Þrastardóttir, R. (2022). Working with Nature-Based Solutions. Synthesis and mapping of status in the Nordics. Nordic Council of Ministers. Denmark: Copenhagen.
The world is currently facing a biodiversity and climate crisis which are globally interlinked. Nature-based solutions (NBS), defined as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural and modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously benefiting people and nature” is part of the solution to these challenges. Here we give a status overview of nature-based solutions in the Nordic countries, obtained within the S-ITUATION projecthttps://nordicsituation.com/, https://www.niva.no/nordicsituation focusing on 1) what is the current status of research on NBS in the Nordic countries? 2) what policy framework(s) exist for NBS in the Nordic countries? 3) what challenges do Nordic countries experience in the process of mainstreaming NBS? 4) what key examples of projects implementing NBS exist in the Nordic countries? We have done this using several approaches: 1) a review of the academic literature, providing insights on the status of research on NBS in the Nordic countries; 2) a grey literature review in each Nordic country, to describe the policy framework for NBS and practical implementation of NBS projects across the Nordic countries; 3) compilation of a Nordic NBS case projects catalogue, which contains implemented case projects from each Nordic country, using NBS in all major ecosystems: terrestrial (forests and agricultural land), freshwater, coastal and marine, to show the breadth of NBS used in the Nordic countries, 4) Nordic NBS stakeholder consultations.
Research on NBS across the Nordics includes several research initiatives. Currently the most central research initiatives are the Nordic Council of Ministers programme on NBS, which is a focused four-year programme. Many Nordic universities and research institutes are also involved in different research projects focusing on or including NBS and there is an exponential interest from researchers in this area. Most of these research projects are targeting NBS in urban areas. In a structured peer-review of scientific publications using the term ‘nature-based solutions’, 64 research papers were found related to the Nordic countries. These studies varied from large-scale ecosystem-based approaches to small-scale NBS. Most of the studies assessed the NBS functions in relation to biophysical qualities, such as water retention capacity, flood risk reduction, health benefits and biodiversity contribution, but there were also studies focusing on potential economic benefits from NBS. Regarding policy frameworks it is evident that these are at different stages of development when it comes to mainstreaming the concept of NBS into policy across the Nordics. Norway and Sweden have adopted the term to a larger degree than Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Still, all five countries conserve, restore and work actively on developing sustainable use of nature, but use other terms (e.g., ‘blue-green infrastructures or solutions’, ‘restoration’, or ‘ecosystem services’) in their policies and guidelines.
NBS governance and implementation is an area that is currently advancing rapidly. At the same time, there are still several challenges as well as also opportunities for using NBS to mitigate and adapt to climate change, protect biodiversity and ensure human well-being. Regarding challenges and gaps, we divide these into 1) natural-scientific and technical knowledge gaps, 2) economic shortcomings, 3) regulatory, governance, and policy challenges, and 4) weak stakeholder collaboration. In the project we have identified 54 key examples of projects implementing NBS in the Nordic countries. Most of these cases were related to freshwater, followed by urban/artificial NBS. The number of implemented NBS projects has increased, especially in the last couple of years. Our key messages and recommendations for future mainstreaming of NBS are: 1) clear political prioritization is needed to mainstream NBS into policy and practice, 2) appropriate institutional structures, procedures and policy instruments at all governance levels are essential to facilitate the implementation of NBS, 3) better funding structures for NBS are needed, 4) we need to develop common standards, long-term monitoring and better cost-benefit evaluations of NBS, and 5) the knowledge base in all phases of NBS projects needs to be strengthened.
Nature and climate are intrinsically interconnected. Thus, it is of utmost importance to address the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis together, and to focus on solutions which benefit both climate and biodiversity. Nature-based solutions, which involve protecting, restoring and sustainably managing ecosystems, provide efficient solutions to the negative effects of both anthropogenic drivers on climate change and the loss of biodiversity.
Over the last few years there has been increasing awareness and implementation of nature-based solutions around the world. Reports from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) see this work as key to achieving global targets for both biodiversity, as well as for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Nordic Co-Operation’s Vision 2030 is to make the Nordic Region the most integrated and sustainable region in the World by 2030. To help reach this goal, The Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM - the official body for inter-governmental co-operation in the Nordic Region) has allocated 26 million DKK to a programme consisting of five projects on nature-based solutions in the Nordic countries. The aim is to further develop and mainstream nature-based solutions for biodiversity and climate change adaptation and mitigation. This involves working with solutions that increase and maintain land and sea-based carbon sinks.
This report aims to synthesize current work and the development of nature-based solutions in a Nordic context. It is the first project (S-ITUATION) in NCM’s Nordic nature-based solutions programme. It will provide a platform for information dissemination and further deliveries on how to best take forward work on the conservation and restoration of ecosystems, in order to provide cost-effective mechanisms for achieving these goals. The range of Nordic ecosystems and different categories of nature-based solutions are covered, and knowledge gaps discussed.
When the project to write a synthesis on nature-based solutions in the Nordic region was put out to tender, it was the steering group's wish that the synthesis would contribute to a wide spread of knowledge among relevant partners and professional environments, and to provide better coordination of measures and to increase the cost-benefit ratio. Norwegian Institute for Water Research NIVA (Norway) together with partners from Aarhus University (Denmark), Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) (Finland), Agricultural University of Iceland (Iceland), and Lund University (Sweden) won the tender and have now carried out the S-ITUATION project where the current report is one of the main outcomes. This work will form the basis for future projects in the programme dealing with policy development, best practice and guidance for implementation at national level.
Jóna Ólavsdóttir, Programme Coordinator, Nordic Council of Ministers, The Faroese EPA (Umhvørvisstovan), Faroe Islands
Irene Lindblad, Leader of the Steering Group, Senior advisor, Ministry of Climate and Environment, Norway
Anna Planke, Vice Leader of the Steering Group, Ministry of Climate and Environment, Norway
Thanks to the steering committee:
Anki Weibull (The Swedish EPA (Naturvårdsverket), Sweden), Anna Planke (Ministry of Climate and Environment, Norway), Bo Storrank (Ministry of the Environment, Finland), Eva Juul Jensen (The Danish EPA (Miljøstyrelsen), Denmark), Irene Lindblad (Ministry of Climate and Environment, Norway), Kolbrún í Haraldsstovu (The National Museum (Tjóðsavnið), Faroe Islands), Lise Lykke Steffensen (NordGen), Lotta Manninen (Ministry of the Environment, Finland), Marie Karlberg (NMRS) and Salome Hallfreðsdóttir (Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate, Iceland).
Thanks also to the reference group:
Elisa Keeling Hemphill (The Norwegian EPA (Miljødirektoratet), Norway), Lennart Wilhelm Moltke Kæmsgaard The Danish EPA (Miljøstyrelsen), (Denmark), Linda Dalen (The Norwegian EPA (Miljødirektoratet) Norway), Marit Finnland Troite (The Norwegian EPA (Miljødirektoratet) Norway), Oscar Fogelberg (The Government of Åland), Sigga Jacobsen (The Faroese EPA (Umhvørvisstovan), Faroe Islands), and Aaron Tuckey (The Swedish EPA (Naturvårdsverket) Sweden).
Internal quality control of the report was performed by Solrun Figenschau Skjellum, Line Johanne Barkved, Joanna Lynn Kemp, and Nikolai Friberg from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA).
The world is currently facing a biodiversity and climate crisis. Climate change is eroding the foundations of our economy, water and food security as well as the health and quality of life, both on a local and global scale. In parallel, the ongoing rapid loss of biodiversity weakens socio-ecological resilience to climate change, and further threatens the well-being of current and future generations. Given the close linkages between climate and biodiversity, it is not surprising that there is an increasing scientific and political awareness of the need for a more integrated approach to tackle these crises with nature-based solutions (NBS). NBS are defined by the IUCN (and as used in this report) as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural and modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously benefiting people and nature”. In a nutshell, NBS are solutions that make use of nature to solve social, economic and environmental challenges and improve biodiversity. Nature-based solutions are also highlighted by both the IPBES and IPCC as a cost-effective way of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). NBS are win–win strategies for addressing both climate change and biodiversity loss, as well as other societal challenges simultaneously.
In this report, we provide an overview of the status of NBS in the Nordic countries. The report presents the results of the S-ITUATION project (Synthesis - Implementation of nature-based solutions in Nordic countries) funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers’ four-year programme on nature-based solutions (NBS). In the report the following questions were addressed:
Key components of the S-ITUATION project were to review the current status of research on NBS in the Nordic countries, identify which policy framework(s) exist for NBS in Nordic countries, map the challenges Nordic countries experience in the process of mainstreaming NBS, and collect examples of NBS projects in the Nordic countries. This work is based on academic literature, published reports and informal and experience-based knowledge using several approaches, including a review of academic literature, a review of “grey literature” (materials and research produced by organizations outside of the traditional commercial or academic publishing and distribution channels), a compilation of a Nordic NBS case projects catalogue and stakeholder consultations. The work covered the full breadth of Nordic terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
The following paragraphs provide a summary of our findings.
There are several research initiatives across all Nordic countries, often financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers, which are directly focusing on NBS or having a relevance for NBS. The current, most central research initiatives are: Nordic Council of Ministers programme on NBS which is a DKK 26 million four-year programme (2021–2024) of 5 projects, one of which is this S-ITUATION project and report. The programme also includes NordGen – Conservation of genetic resources for climate adaptation, which is a shared gene bank between the Nordic countries and a knowledge center for genetic resources. NordGen´s mission is to preserve and promote the sustainable use of genetic resources within plants, farm animals and forestry in the Nordic countries, working for a sustainable future.
Many Nordic universities and research institutes are involved in national and international research projects on NBS. Most of these research projects are targeting NBS in urban areas. This is most likely related to EU research funding schemes, which have launched several calls through the EU research and innovation program Horizon 2020, focusing on using NBS to address pressing societal challenges, especially in urban areas. The scientific literature review showed an exponential increase in the number of international publications with a focus on NBS. Out of 912 peer-reviewed publications identified; 64 covered research related to Nordic NBS. These publications were mainly empirical and modelling studies, but also some review studies. The studied NBS varied from large-scale ecosystem-based approaches to small-scale NBS. Most of the studies assessed the NBS functions in relation to biophysical qualities, such as water retention capacity, flood risk reduction, health benefits, biodiversity contribution, as well as some on potential economic benefits of NBS. There were also studies comparing similar types of NBS across different land use contexts.
When comparing the Nordic countries, it becomes evident that they are at different stages of mainstreaming the concept of NBS into policy. Norway and Sweden have adopted the term to a larger degree than Denmark, Finland and Iceland. The NBS concept is, in general, not well integrated in the legal structure in most of the Nordic countries. Norway is the only country which has an explicit legal requirement on the use of NBS in some planning guidelines. However, all five countries conserve, restore and work actively on developing sustainable use patterns for nature, and have legislation, strategies and policies that support this, although they use other terms (e.g., ‘blue-green infrastructures or solutions’, ‘restoration’, or ‘ecosystem services’). Concerning "supportive material” i.e., guidelines or tools, which help practitioners to plan, design and implement NBS, a few examples exist from several Nordic countries, but are often specific to certain types of NBS or certain challenges to be solved.
Regarding financial support, there are in the Nordics some examples of financial support programs, which allow the funding of NBS. These were related to: environmental subsidies for agriculture; public grants for NBS knowledge-building projects for climate change adaptation; direct funding for restoration and nature protection projects; urban climate change adaptation; stormwater treatment; NBS projects for water quality improvement. However, most of these funding opportunities have not been tagged with NBS, but used other terms such as urban green space, green infrastructure, water quality etc. These findings indicate either that more programs exist, that would allow the financing of NBS, but which do not explicitly address or consider them as solutions, or that the Nordics, like many other countries/regions are lacking sufficient public and private funding for NBS projects. In this context, we want to highlight the Nordic Council of Ministers’ NBS programme, which has the purpose of encouraging the Nordic countries to work together and enhance their knowledge base about NBS. It has funded the implementation of several NBS projects in the Nordic countries.
NBS governance and implementation is an area that is currently advancing rapidly. At the same time, there are still several challenges as well as also opportunities for mainstreaming NBS i.e., making NBS a standard solution and not an exception. The Nordic countries face similar problems to other countries, mainly in relation to 1) natural-scientific and technical knowledge gaps, 2) economic shortcomings, 3) regulatory, governance, and policy challenges, and 4) weak stakeholder collaboration. When it comes to natural-scientific and technical knowledge gaps, we conclude that it is essential to have better evidence of the multiple benefits NBS can deliver across ecosystems and land use types, but also on how local conditions influence their performance. Most attention so far has focused on assessing the environmental aspects and impacts of NBS, without paying enough attention to economic, social and health impacts. More comprehensive assessments are needed, that include evaluations across larger spatial and temporal scales and contain monitoring and evaluation schemes that also comprise participatory planning and governance processes. It is necessary to create an evidence base for the climate zones spanning the Nordic countries, as the transferability of results from other climatic zones or societies is limited. It is also necessary to take into consideration current social, environmental and climate changes, which can undermine the integrity of ecosystems and thus the capacity of NBS to deliver on expected outcomes.
Another challenge for the increased implementation of well-functioning NBS are technical and ecological knowledge gaps of practitioners in the planning, design and implementation of NBS, but also concerning their operation and maintenance. We want to specifically highlight here, that even though it is a fundamental requirement of NBS to have a positive effect on biodiversity, we observe that in many NBS projects, the expected biodiversity benefits are not clearly stated. The consideration of the multiple benefits of NBS, as well as trade-offs between them, makes it difficult to exactly predict the effect or outcome of a NBS and to standardize NBS as can be done with technical solutions. This might undermine the trust in NBS in comparison to engineered and technical solutions. In addition, there is often also a higher competence in technical or engineering solutions in the relevant public agencies, than for NBS, which leads to a preference for these types of solutions (sometimes called “grey" solutions) and inhibits increased adoption of NBS. To overcome this problem of technological path dependency, targeted NBS-education for infrastructure professionals is suggested.
There are several shortcomings in relation to socio-economic aspects of NBS, which are interwoven with other shortcomings. One main issue is the lack of scientific and economic evidence on the costs and benefits of NBS over their complete lifetime. This results in incomplete cost-benefit analysis of NBS, so that NBS interventions cannot properly be compared with alternative solutions. Information gaps arise due to lack of regular monitoring, but also because the observed benefits are not monetized and integrated into economic valuation and accounting methods (i.e., natural capital accounting). This makes it difficult to calculate reliable revenue streams and to develop appropriate investment plans for NBS, which are needed for the acquisition of public as well as private funding.
Governance structures related to NBS differ between the Nordic countries. Due to their multi-functional character, NBS require the development of cross-sectoral structures and policies. Administrative boundaries, sectorization and silo-thinking, as well as a lack of cooperation between private and public organisations, often currently hinders the implementation of good NBS. There is also a need for governance structures that can understand and balance social conflicts between local-level and landscape-level contributions of NBS. Stakeholder collaboration and participation is an important approach to overcome these conflicts.
In a regulatory setting, all Nordic countries would benefit from clear and explicit requirements for when and how the term NBS should be used. This requires a clear definition of what NBS are to avoid greenwashing. Appropriate regulation will create a more stable framework around the long-term development of NBS and ensure that the necessary collaboration between relevant actors is happening.
The S-ITUATION partners collected information on 54 cases of Nordic NBS projects across all Nordic countries and ecosystems. This collection shows that there are already several pilot projects in the Nordics which can inform future projects. However, also some of the previously mentioned challenges are highlighted, such as missing biodiversity targets or lack of regular monitoring.
In conclusion, the multi-functional character of NBS provides a great opportunity to address societal and environmental challenges simultaneously and can bend the curve for biodiversity loss as well as to substantially contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation. Even though we noticed an increasing uptake of the NBS concept in science, policy and practice over the last decade, there is still room for improvement, to create favourable conditions for NBS in the Nordic countries.
Our key messages and recommendations for future mainstreaming of NBS are:
For a more detailed description of key messages and recommendations, we refer to chapter 7 of this report.
Verden står i dag overfor både en biodiversitetskrise og en klimakrise som er tett koblet til hverandre. Naturbaserte løsninger (forkortes gjerne NBS etter det engelske "nature-based solutions") defineres gjerne som "tiltak for å beskytte, bærekraftig forvalte og gjenopprette naturlige og modifiserte økosystemer, som effektivt og fleksibelt adresserer samfunnsutfordringer, og som samtidig kommer mennesker og natur til gode". Slike tiltak anses som en måte å takle en rekke av utfordringene knyttet til klimaendringer og naturmangfold samtidig. Denne rapporten gir en oversikt over dagens status for kunnskap og bruk av naturbaserte løsninger i Norden, som en del av S-ITUATION-prosjektet. Vi har tatt utgangspunkt i fire forskningsspørsmål:
For å finne svar på dette, har vi tatt i bruk flere ulike tilnærminger: 1) en systematisk gjennomgang av faglitteratur for å undersøke hvilken forskning som finnes på NBS i Norden; 2) en systematisk gjennomgang av såkalt «grå litteratur» (rapporter, veiledninger, dokumenter, osv.) i hvert av de nordiske landene for å beskrive de politiske rammene for NBS og praktisk gjennomføring av NBS-prosjekter; 3) vi har utarbeidet en nordisk NBS-prosjektkatalog, som inneholder eksempler på gjennomførte prosjekter som bruker NBS i alle større økosystemer (skog- og jordbruksland, ferskvann, kyst, urbant og hav), for å vise bredden av NBS som brukes i de nordiske landene; og 4) vi har konsultert interessenter som jobber med NBS i Norden.
Funnene våre viser at det finnes flere forskningsinitiativer innen NBS på tvers av de nordiske landene, inkludert Nordisk ministerråds fireårige program for NBS som
S-ITUATION er en del av. Mange nordiske universiteter og forskningsinstitutter er også involvert i prosjekter som omhandler NBS, og forskningsinteressen på dette området har de siste årene økt eksponentielt. De fleste av forskningsprosjektene er rettet mot NBS i urbane områder. I litteraturgjennomgangen fant vi 64 relevante forskningsartikler som konkret omhandlet begrepet "naturbaserte løsninger" i Norden. Disse studiene varierer fra økosystembaserte tilnærminger i stor skala til mindre NBS. De fleste av studiene vurderer NBS-enes funksjon ut fra biofysiske funksjoner, som for eksempel kapasitet for vannretensjon, redusert flomrisiko, helsefordeler, eller bidrag til naturmangfold, men det finnes også studier som undersøker de potensielle økonomiske fordelene ved NBS.
Våre undersøkelser av de politiske rammene for NBS viser tydelig variasjon i bruken av selve begrepet «naturbaserte løsninger». Forvaltningen i Norge og Sverige har tatt i bruk begrepet i større grad enn Danmark, Finland og Island. Alle de fem landene jobber aktivt med å bevare, restaurere og utvikle bærekraftig bruk av naturen, men bruker andre begreper (for eksempel «blågrønn infrastruktur eller løsninger», «restaurering» eller «økosystemtjenester») for å beskrive dette i lovgivning, retningslinjer og politisk styring.
Styring og implementering av NBS er et område i rask utvikling. Vi ser fortsatt flere utfordringer, men også muligheter, for å bruke NBS til å redusere og tilpasse oss klimaendringene, beskytte naturmangfold og ivareta samfunnsbehov. Vi har valgt å dele inn utfordringer og barrierer for å ta i bruk NBS i 1) naturvitenskapelige og tekniske kunnskapshull, 2) finansielle utfordringer, 3) politiske, regulatoriske og forvaltningsmessige utfordringer, og 4) svakt samarbeid med interessenter.
I prosjektet har vi identifisert 54 sentrale eksempler på prosjekter som implementerer NBS i de nordiske landene. Denne typen prosjekter har økt i antall, spesielt de siste par årene. De fleste av prosjektene i vår katalog er relatert til ferskvann, etterfulgt av urbane eller konstruerte NBS.
For at naturbaserte løsninger skal kunne tas i bruk og bli en integrert del av fremtidens løsninger for klima og miljø, er det flere praktiske grep som kan tas.
Vi oppsummerer følgende hovedpunkter og anbefalinger for det videre arbeidet med NBS:
Det er behov for tydelige politiske prioriteringer for å integrere NBS i politikk og praksis.
Det er avgjørende å tilpasse institusjonelle strukturer, prosedyrer og politiske virkemidler på alle styringsnivåer for å tilrettelegge for implementering av NBS.
Det trengs bedre strukturer for finansiering av NBS
Vi må utvikle felles standarder og retningslinjer for å bidra til større opptak av NBS. Dette inkluderer tydelige mål for biologisk mangfold.
Det er nødvendig med mer langsiktig overvåking og mer omfattende kost-nytte-analyser av NBS.
Kunnskapsgrunnlaget i alle faser av NBS-prosjekter må styrkes.
For en mer detaljert oversikt over hovedpunkter og anbefalinger viser vi til kapittel 7 i denne rapporten.
Conservation - the care and protection of natural resources so that they are available for future generations. It includes maintaining diversity of species, genes, and ecosystems, as well as functions of the environment, such as nutrient cycling.
Drainage – wetland drainage for agricultural purposes uses surface ditches, subsurface permeable pipes, or both, to lower the groundwater depth. Excess water from the plant root zone and underlying soil can enter the pipes through perforations and flow away from the field to a ditch or another outlet.
EEA – European Environment Agency
Eutrophication – a process that increases the generation of biomass in lakes or other water bodies, caused by increasing concentrations of plant nutrients, such as phosphate and nitrate.
Fen – a common peatland ecosystem that typically develops at groundwater discharge sites. Fens are usually dominated by sedges or occasionally by reedbeds, shrubs, and trees. While the groundwater flow path is often the main water source, the hydrology can be much more complex than the simple lateral groundwater flow.
Grey literature - materials and research produced by organizations outside of the traditional commercial or academic publishing and distribution channels. Common grey literature publication types include reports, working papers, government documents, white papers and evaluations.
IPBES – The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
IUCN – The International Union for Conservation of Nature
Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) - the IUCN definition of nature-based solutions is “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural and modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously benefiting people and nature” The United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme defines NBS as “actions to protect, conserve, restore, sustainably use and manage natural or modified terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems which address social, economic and environmental challenges effectively and adaptively, while simultaneously providing human well-being, ecosystem services, resilience and biodiversity benefits”.
Nordic countries - the Nordic countries includes the sovereign states of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and the autonomous territories of the Faroe Islands and Greenland; and the autonomous region of Åland.
NPRA – Norwegian Public Road Administration
NVE – Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate
Peat – (also known as turf) consists of decomposed and humified plant litter. The organic matter content is defined to be at least 24% of dry matter (DM) but may also be higher than 90% of DM.
Peatland – terrestrial wetland ecosystems, also named “mires”, where waterlogged soil conditions prevent the full decomposition of plant material. The thickness of the peat layer is defined to be at least 0.3 m, but this strict definition does not apply in all European countries.
Restoration – management measures that aim to restore the original form and function of different ecosystem habitats to favourable conservation status.
Rewetting – measures to raise water levels back to the soil surface, to recover anaerobic soil conditions and/or to recover the natural hydrological dynamics/hydraulic connectivity. These processes are important for the growth of natural wetland vegetation, while simultaneously halting carbon emissions from oxidation. Due to subsidence, rewetting of peat soils by closing pumping stations and/or drain systems might also cause inundation.
Sustainable use – methods and rates of resource use that do not lead to the long-term degradation of the environment, thereby maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations.
UNEA – The United Nations Environment Assembly
UNEP – The United Nations Environment Programme
We are currently facing a biodiversity and climate crisis, which are globally interlinked. On one hand climate change is eroding the foundations of our economy, water and food security, as well as the health and quality of life, both locally and globally. On the other hand, the ongoing loss of biodiversity makes socio-ecological resilience to climate change weak and further threatens the well-being of current and future generations. The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Risks Report (McLennan, 2021) concluded that loss of biodiversity and ecosystem collapse will cause “Irreversible consequences for the environment, humankind, and economic activity”.
Given the close linkages between climate and biodiversity, it is not surprising that there is an increasing scientific and political awareness of the need for a more integrated approach to tackle these crises using nature-based solutions (NBS) (IUCN, 2020). NBS were defined by the IUCN (and as used in this report) as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural and modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously benefiting people and nature” (IUCN 2020, Cohen-Shacham et al., 2016) and as win–win strategies for addressing both climate change and biodiversity loss. In a nutshell, NBS are solutions that use nature to solve social, economic and environmental challenges and to improve biodiversity.
In this report, we will give an overview of the status of nature-based solutions in the Nordic countries, obtained during the S-ITUATION project (Synthesis - Implementation of nature-based solutions in Nordic countries), that was funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers’ four-year programme on nature-bases solutions (NBS).
The main aim of this report is to provide a status overview on how Nordic Countries implement NBS. It includes the following research questions:
Nature-based solutions have several definitions (see above). In 2022 the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) defined NBS as “actions to protect, conserve, restore, sustainably use and manage natural or modified terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems which address social, economic and environmental challenges effectively and adaptively, while simultaneously providing human well-being, ecosystem services, resilience and biodiversity benefits”. Nature-based solutions are highlighted by both the IPBES and IPCC as a cost-effective way of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and they play an essential role in the overall global effort to achieve the SDGs. According to UNEP (2022) they are “effectively and efficiently addressing major social, economic and environmental challenges, such as biodiversity loss, climate change, land degradation, desertification, food security, disaster risks, urban development, water availability, poverty eradication, inequality and unemployment, as well as social development, sustainable economic development, human health and a broad range of ecosystem services”. At the same time, there is a growing body of evidence, scientific literature and practitioner experience that there are challenges when it comes to implementing NBS. These include issues such as participation and equity, economic valuation, scale and time effects, integration with built infrastructure plus governance and policy issues (Nelson et al., 2020).
There is a substantial body of international scientific literature and reports on NBS (Arkema et al., 2017; Cohen-Shacham et al., 2019). To complement our understanding of the status of NBS in the Nordic countries, a key part of the project and this report has been to compile information on implemented NBS projects and actions in the Nordic countries. To do this, a synthesis combining scientific and grey literature has been carried out. This covered the breadth of Nordic terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems as well as cost-benefit aspects associated with these. With these insights, we compared results and experiences across the Nordic countries, so that they could serve as a basis for knowledge-sharing, inspiration and the development of future projects on the topic for the Nordic region.
This report is structured into seven main chapters. First, the introduction (chapter 1), then defining nature-based solutions, including uptake of the concept over time (chapter 2), methodology and approaches used in the S-ITUATION project (Figure 1), including a review of the academic literature and grey literature, a compilation of implemented NBS case projects in the Nordics, consultations with Nordic stakeholders, and assessment of knowledge gap and challenges (chapter 3). Chapter 4 presents the results NBS research in the Nordics as well as research activities and research publications focusing on NBS. This includes The Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen), The Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) project, governance conditions for NBS in Nordic countries, societal challenges and ecosystems addressed in policies and publications in Nordic countries, governmental requirements for adopting NBS, support and status provided to facilitate and implement NBS, and examples of NBS projects in Nordic countries. Chapter 5 focuses on the challenges for mainstreaming NBS in Nordic countries, including natural-scientific and technical knowledge gaps, shortcomings of the long-term monitoring of NBS, lack of a clear definition of biodiversity net-gain, the technical and ecological knowledge gaps of practitioners, economic shortcomings, regulatory, governance and policy challenges, and participation gaps. Chapter 6 includes the conclusions from the S-ITUATION project, and chapter 7 offers key messages and recommendations.
Figure 1. The five partners in the S-ITUATION NBS synthesis project funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers.
We have focused our work on the term ‘nature-based solutions’ (NBS) and its equivalent in Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish, in order to assure a harmonized comparison among countries and ecosystems. We must bear in mind, however, that by limiting ourselves to specific mention of the term nature—based solutions, we may miss out on relevant research, grey literature and implemented cases where the term is not used. Adoption of the term NBS is relatively recent (Nesshöver et al., 2017). It has emerged from the integration of multiple scientific fields (Sowińska-Świerkosz and García, 2022) and the use of the term NBS by international bodies has given a single name to a collection of previously existing and frequently used concepts and practices (such as “ecosystem-based restoration” or “urban green infrastructure”).
The execution and output from the S-ITUATION project, including this report and other products, build on the IUCN global standard for NBS (IUCN, 2020). This standard can be used to assess outcomes and success of NBS in the planning and design phase, as well as during and after implementation. Such a framework is essential to increase the scale and impact of the NBS approach, prevent unanticipated negative outcomes or misuse, and to help funding agencies, policy makers and other stakeholders assess the effectiveness of interventions. Eight criteria are defined in the standard, which are further broken down into several indicators (Figure 2).
These criteria are:
Criterion 1: NBS effectively address societal challenges i.e., the selection process of NBS is according to the societal challenges they are meant to address, and includes their benchmarking and periodical assessment
Criterion 2: The design of NBS is informed by scale i.e., the design of the NBS takes synergies and interactions beyond the intervention site into account
Criterion 3: NBS result in a net gain to biodiversity and ecosystem integrity i.e., these gains need to be clearly defined and measurable
Criterion 4: NBS are economically viable i.e., the economic viability of the NBS are evaluated in terms of the multiple benefits they can bring in comparison to alternative solutions
Criterion 5: NBS are based on inclusive, transparent and empowering governance processes i.e., inclusive, transparent and empowering governance processes are integral to the planning, design, implementation and operational phases of the NBS and include the identification of all intended and unintended consequences, for all affected stakeholder groups and with the aim to “leave no one behind”.
Criterion 6: NBS equitably balance trade-offs between the achievement of their primary goal(s) and the continued provision of multiple benefits i.e., the equitable balance between the trade-offs that arise from the multiple benefits of an NBS interventions to different stakeholder groups is maintained and, if needed, corrective actions to balance these benefits are implemented
Criterion 7: NBS are managed adaptively, based on evidence i.e., adaptive management of the NBS is based on evidence gained by regular monitoring of the intervention throughout its lifecycle
Criterion 8: NBS are sustainable and mainstreamed within an appropriate jurisdictional context i.e., the implementation of NBS should be embedded in the appropriate jurisdictional context and trigger transformative change towards sustainability.
Figure 2. Eight assessment criteria of the IUCN Global Standard for NBS.
Source: IUCN, 2020.
The term ‘nature-based solutions’ (NBS) was first mentioned in 2008 by the World Bank (2008). This was the starting point for the concept in the international research and policy community (see Figure 3 for a timeline of seminal NBS works). In 2009, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) promoted the use of NBS to adapt to climate change, in its position paper on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP 15 (IUCN, 2009). Some years later, IUCN adopted NBS as a part of its 2013–2016 Programme (IUCN, 2012) and a definition of NBS was adopted at the world IUCN congress in Hawaii in 2016. NBS is conceptualized as an umbrella term for ecosystem-related approaches, such as green infrastructure, ecosystem-based adaptation and ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Cohen-Shacham et al., 2016) using natural features to address societal challenges (Balian et al., 2016). In 2015, NBS was launched as a major research area within the EU research and innovation program Horizon 2020 (European Commission, 2015), which was the entry point for the uptake of the concept on a larger scale in the research community as well as in policy and practice in the EU.
In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) used the term NBS in their 1.5° C report, in the context of flooding and climate adaptation (IPCC, 2018). In 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published a global assessment mentioning NBS in relation to the idea that nature can be conserved, restored and used sustainably, while simultaneously meeting other global societal goals (IPBES, 2019). In 2020, the IUCN published a ‘Global Standard for Nature-based Solutions’, aiming to facilitate the use and uptake of the NBS concept among a diversity of stakeholders (IUCN, 2020). In 2021, the European Environment Agency published a report about NBS in Europe, focusing on policy, knowledge and practice for climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction (EEA, 2021). In March 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEA) adopted a resolution about NBS (UNEP, 2022).
Figure 3. Timeline of the publications of seminal works focusing entirely or partly on the nature-based solution concept.
There are different definitions of the NBS concept (Figure 4), but the most frequently used, and often referred to in the scientific literature, are the definitions adopted by the IUCN in 2016 (Cohen-Shacham et al., 2016) and the European Commission (European Commission, 2015). In 2022, UNEA adopted the first globally agreed on definition of NBS. This builds on the definition from IUCN and the EC (UNEP, 2022). Our report uses the IUCN definition as a starting point, as this was the commonly agreed definition when the S-ITUATION project was initiated. The definitions share a common ground but do differ. The commonalities relate to the definition of NBS as actions based in nature to address societal challenges and that NBS imitate and enhance natural processes and mechanisms. There is a strong focus on the multifunctional character of the solutions, including benefits for the society, economy and the environment. Nevertheless, most NBS suggests one primary benefit and a series of co-benefits. For example, the main purpose of a protected or restored wetland could be to buffer high floods (water regulation) and the co-benefits could be water purification, increased biodiversity as well as improved recreational values.
The definitions of NBS also have some major differences, which can result in different interpretations of which solutions are categorised or defined as NBS or not. While the IUCN and UNEA more strongly stress the protection, sustainable management, and restoration of existing natural and modified large-scale ecosystems (Cohen-Shacham et al., 2016), the European Commission includes solutions that are “inspired by, supported by or copied from nature” (European Commission, 2015); thereby including artificial solutions such as green walls, green roofs, aquaponics and seawalls (ibid.). All three organisations include the idea that an NBS can provide multiple benefits or be multifunctional, but they link the benefits to different ends. The European Commission links to the three dimensions (social, environmental, and economic) of sustainable development, the IUCN links to human well-being and biodiversity and the UNEP links to all of these benefits.
Figure 4. Central definitions for NBS by the EU, IUCN and UNEP.
The focus of the S-ITUATION project was to review the current status of research on NBS in the Nordic countries, identify which policy framework(s) exist for NBS in Nordic countries, to map the challenges Nordic countries experience in the process of mainstreaming NBS and to identify key examples of projects implementing NBS in the Nordic countries. This work is based on academic literature, published reports and informal and experience-based knowledge using several approaches:
In order to answer these questions, we have: 1) synthesized and extracted information from the existing literature on NBS, 2) mapped projects implementing NBS over time across the Nordics, and 3) given a snapshot in time of the current development of NBS from a Nordic perspective. This does not include all publications, reports, and projects on the topic, but gives a balanced picture of where the Nordics currently are in terms of NBS. The focus of this report is NBS (answering questions 1–3 above) in the five sovereign Nordic states of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, acknowledging the fact that NBS projects have also been carried out in the Faroe Islands and Åland. In the Faroe Islands the first large land-restoration project (the Lendisbati initiative) was initiated in 2022, with the aim to prevent erosion, protect biodiversity and restore wetlands for carbon storage. In Åland, a NBS has been employed to improve four multifunctional wetlands for better water quality, sustainable food production, climate adaptation and increased biodiversity. Both these projects have been funded by the Nordic NBS programme. To our best knowledge no NBS projects have been implemented in Greenland. The methodology applied for each of these approaches are described in detail below.
(See Appendix 9.1: Grey literature search (including policy))
|Table 1. Overview of European NBS case study collections (status March 2022)|
|Project name||Link to NBS case study collection / NBS databases||Geographic coverage||Total cases collected||Cases in Nordic countries|
|Network Nature||https://networknature.eu/network-nature-case-study-finder||global||396||Ca. 16|
|Urban Nature Atlas (Naturvation project)||https://una.city/||global, focus on cities||1105||71|
|Natural Water Retention Measures||http://nwrm.eu/list-of-all-case-studies||mainly Europe, focus on water||372||7|
|Nature-based solutions Initiative||https://casestudies.naturebasedsolutionsinitiative.org/||global||110||0|
There are several research initiatives across all Nordic countries, often financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers, which focus directly on NBS or have a relevance for NBS. The most central, current research initiatives are described below.
Nordic Council of Ministers has allocated DKK 26 million to a four-year programme on nature-based solutions. The programme consists of five projects running from 2021 to 2024. These include; 1) a synthesis of nature-based solutions in a Nordic perspective (the S-ITUATION project, on which this report is based), 2) national examples and testing, 3) policy development and guidance for national and regional administrations, 4) guidance and best practice, and 5) NordGen: Conservation of genetic resources for climate adaptation (see below).
The Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen) is a gene bank shared between the Nordic countries and a knowledge center for genetic resources. As an institution under the Nordic Council of Ministers, NordGen´s mission is to preserve and promote the sustainable use of genetic resources within plants, farm animals and forestry in the Nordic countries, working for a sustainable future. NordGen continuously leads and participates in different projects relating to the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources and the project Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) is one of these projects.NordGen - Nordic Genetic Resource Center: https://www.nordgen.org/en/about/
The Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) project was started in 2015 and is currently funded until the year 2024. The work has focused on the conservation of CWR which are wild plant species that are closely related to crops and are of special importance to humans, since CWR are one of several tools needed to address food security and climate change. The goal of the CWR project is to achieve Nordic synergy in the field of CWR conservation and sustainable use, and to facilitate Nordic cooperation and knowledge. The long-term aim of the CWR project is to promote climate- and environmentally friendly Nordic agriculture, and sustainable use of genetic resources in terrestrial settings (Palmé et al., 2019; Palmé, n.d.a). The first part of the project was to produce a Nordic regional CWR checklist. Today the list contains almost 3.000 different CWR and includes the CWR´s taxon, distribution, the relatedness of wild relatives to the crop and the plant´s use.The list is available at: https://figshare.com/articles/dataset/The_Nordic_priority_crop_wild_relative_gene_pool_and_distribution_dataset/5688130/3 Out of the CWR in the list, 114 have been prioritized based on socio-economic value of the related crops and potential utilization value of the CWR (Fizgerald et al., 2021; Palmé, n.d.b). A national checklist can be easily made from the Nordic CWR checklist and used for planning (Palmé et al., 2019).
The conservation of CWR itself can be considered as an NBS. In-situ and ex-situ conservation provides a direct biodiversity benefit. It assures that the genetic pool and diversity of endemic wild species can be used in an uncertain future, with a changed climate, to meet societal challenges such as food security. The CWR in the Nordic region are adapted to local climate and conditions and therefore contain adaptions to the challenging conditions of the region (Palmé, n.d.a; Thorbjörnsson and Göransson, n.d.). CWR species can contribute to climate change mitigation as they include traits that can be transferred to allow crops to grow less carbon intensively. CWRs could be used to introduce a trait for nitrogen use efficiency into a crop to allow reduced fertilizer use (Global Crop Diversity Trust, n.d.). However, the opportunity to utilize CWR is decreasing as wild populations are under increasing threat from extinction by e.g., agricultural expansion, overexploitation, pollution and extractive industries. With each extinction or population decline, the overall genetic diversity of CWRs also decreases (Satori et al., 2022).
|Table 2. List of the top three conservation sites in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) that would be suitable for CWR's conservation (Fitzgerald et al., 2019).|
|Top three sites||1||2||3|
|Denmark||Aalborg commune||South Funen Sea & Islands||Roskilde Fjord|
|Finland||Tornio- and Muonio river area||Hanko and Tammisaari archipelago||Koli National Park|
|Iceland||Vatnajokulsthjodgardur National Park||Myvatn Laxá region||Vatnsfjordur|
|Norway||Lista Wetlands system||Sjunkhatten National Park||Trollheimen|
|Sweden||Mysoxär Tännes||Falsterbo Peninsula & Måkläppen||High coast|
Ex situ conservation is the long-term conservation of biological diversity of plants away from their natural habitat. It is most frequently done in seed gene banks, but can also be done in the field, in vitro or by cryopreservation. Traditional ex situ conservation should act as back up and complementary measure to in situ conservation, and only in rare cases be the main approach for CWR conservation. Several ex-situ collections of CWR can be found in the Nordic region (Palmé et al., 2019).
The CWR project also included a study on the effect of climate change on three selected priority CWR species - common hazel (Corylus avellana L.), alpine meadow-grass (Poa alpina L.) and cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus L.). The results indicated that climate change will influence all three of these CWR species, especially alpine meadow-grass, the species with the most northerly distribution. The effect of climate change on these species must be taken into consideration because if a targeted species is predicted to disappear from an area in the future, in situ conservation should not be planned at that location. Furthermore, the populations which are predicted to be adversely affected by climate change should be collected to ex situ conservation areas or efforts made to facilitate their migration into suitable areas. More research is needed to find out the effect of climate change on other priority CWR species (Palmé et al., 2019). To develop a proper in situ and ex situ CWR conservational plan, it is important to develop a national strategy in each Nordic country, in line with relevant international agreements and guidelines and to develop the policy instruments needed to facilitate their conservation and sustainable use, across all relevant sectors (ibid.). In the long term, the CWR project team recommends that a common Nordic approach to CWR should be developed based on international guidelines and strategies, to address the future challenges of climate change and food security. The Nordic cooperation would involve complementary in situ conservation sites across the Nordic region, to include different habitat types, in order to be able to encompass the most important CWR species in the region (ibid.).
|Table 3. Key NBS-related research projects from the Nordic Countries (2 examples per country)|
|Country||Name of project||Focus of the project||Funding agency||Duration||Link to webpage|
|Denmark||MERLIN||Mainstreaming Ecological Restoration of freshwater-related ecosystems||Horizon 2020||2021–2024||https://project-merlin.eu/|
|Denmark||Regreen||Regreen promotes urban liveability through fostering NBS in Europe and China||Horizon 2020||2019–2023||https://www.regreen-project.eu/|
|Finland||DISTDYN||Forestry mimicking natural disturbances||Ministry of agriculture and forestry||2009–2109||https://www.luke.fi/fi/projektit/monimuotoisuuden-ja-puuston-hd|
|Finland||EVO||Restoration using deadwood and prescribed burning||EU projects SPREAD, EUFIRELAB & RESTORE; Academy of Finland||2001–2051||http://www.metla.fi/hanke/8532temanord2022-562.pdfEVO_methods.pdf|
|Iceland||RECARE-FP7 (ENV.2013.6.2-4)||Land and river restoration||COST Action ES1306, European Connectivity Research||2013–2018||https://www.recare-hub.eu/recare-project|
|Iceland||Ecological Restoration||Land restoration||Nordic Council of Ministers||2011–2013||https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol18/iss4/art33/|
|Norway||SPARE||Use NBS in cities to improve biodiversity, recreation and climate change adaptation||The Research Council of Norway||2021–2025||https://www.spare-project.com/|
|Norway||SABICAS||Develop a user-friendly toolbox that can optimize the use of NBS at catchment scale||The Research Council of Norway||2021–2025||https://www.sabicas.no/|
|Sweden||Naturvation||To understand what NBS can achieve in cities, foster innovations, and realise the potential of NBS||Horizon 2020||2017–2022||https://naturvation.eu/|
|Sweden||Urban Nature||Identify drivers and barriers for NBS implementation as well as models and support structures facilitating the integration of NBS in the planning process||Formas||2017–2023||Urban nature | Centre for Environmental and Climate Science (CEC) (lu.se)|
Figure 5. Peer-reviewed scientific publications in the Nordics (including publications that use the term ‘nature-based solutions’ [NBS]) until June 2021.
The studied NBS varied from large-scale ecosystem-based approaches (e.g., re-forestation of riparian areas to reduce risk of disasters) to small-scale NBS (e.g., biological infiltration beds for purification of runoff water). Most of the studies assessed functions of the NBS in relation to biophysical qualities, such as water retention capacity, flood risk reduction, health benefits and biodiversity contributions, but there were also studies focusing on potential economic benefits. Some studies compared different types of NBS, while others compared NBS with grey infrastructure solutions. There were also studies comparing similar types of NBS across different land-use contexts. The urban context was the dominant land-use context, covered in 50 publications, followed by freshwater (12), agriculture (5), forest (5) and coastal/marine (4). For an overview of publication number and land-use types across the five Nordic countries, see Table 4.
Below, we give a brief overview of the types of NBS that have been the focus of publications across the different land-use contexts.
|Table 4. Countries and land-use types covered by the 64 NBS publications. |
Note that a single publication can include several Nordic countries and several land-use types. The total sum therefore exceeds 64.
|ECOSYSTEM / LAND COVER|
The focus of the five agricultural NBS publications was mixed. One reported on results from a study focusing on agroforestry, including Denmark and Sweden among other countries. Another asked whether Danish farmers would be willing to periodically flood their farmland to reduce urban flood risks if they gained economic compensation. One focused on farming to promote human health and wellbeing. Another looked at the superior effect of NBS for the sustainability enhancement of catchment systems by promoting desirable soil and landscape functions. This study reviewed key examples and included several land-use contexts and examples from Sweden.
The focus of the four coastal/marine NBS publications was the effects of climate change on coastal and marine areas. One study focused on climate mitigation and covered both coastal and freshwater wetlands and performed a meta- analysis, which included a study of the cost-effectiveness of wetland restoration for climate change mitigation. Two studies focus on climate adaptation. One developed a framework for the design process of large-scale NBS solutions aiming to address biodiversity degradation. This is being tested in an urban-coastal case study in Odense, Denmark. Another used Open-Air Laboratories to model the effectiveness of different types of NBS, such as dunes and seagrass, and included case-studies from Finland. The last study focused on the relationship between growing up in natural environments and subsequent psychiatric disorders in Denmark. All publications do also cover other land-use contexts.
The focus of the five publications was water management in forest environments; two of the studies also included freshwater. One study reviewed different economic approaches to address management decisions in forested watersheds. Another empirical study focused on the effect of planting newly forested riparian buffers on water-management capacity and covered Sweden and Norway. Another study investigated and compared hydroclimatic changes across a set of basins in the Nordic region (i.e., Finland and Sweden) and northwest America and compared these with changes in vegetation density (using the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI)) across three time periods: 1973–1978, 1993–1998, and 2013–2016.
The main research focus of the twelve freshwater NBS publications was the use of NBS for stormwater, flood and disaster risk management, including empirical, modelling and/or governance studies. The studies cover solutions such as wetlands, floodplains, riparian forest plantations and riparian habitats. One publication reported results from a study investigating the potential of wetlands to dampen temporal variability of water flow through the landscape in 82 Swedish catchments. Another report documented results from a study investigating whether wetland ecosystems at local and regional scales can contribute to achieving the SDGs and their targets in Sweden. Another publication describes a Horizon 2020 Innovation Action (PHUSICOS) aiming to demonstrate the use of NBS in rural and mountain landscapes, including Norway, to reduce the risk posed by hydro-meteorological hazards. There were also publications focusing on water purification, including a publication describing an empirical study in Sweden about the potential of zebra mussel farming for nutrient retention in a eutrophic lake.
As there were 50 publications that focused on the urban land-use context, this category was the richest and most diverse in relation to the solutions covered. The most frequently covered societal challenges were urban flood risks and human health and wellbeing, but there were also publications covering other societal challenges, such as heat stress, air quality regulation and carbon sequestration. Several studies presented results from empirical and modelling studies, which focused on either climate change adaptation, water purification or these two in combination. There was a wide variety of NBS covered by the different studies. These included constructed wetlands, bioretention basins, biological infiltration beds, sludge treatment reed beds, sedimentation ponds, green roofs, daylighting piped streams and associated implemented NBS, urban farming combined with closed loop systems for sustainable water, nutrient, and waste management. Other studies provided results from empirical and modelling studies focusing on the benefits provided by different types of NBS for human health, wellbeing and/or food supply. Studied NBS included communal urban gardening, urban and peri-urban agriculture, parks, nature rehabilitation gardens, greening of rooftops, edible green infrastructure, urban green (blue) infrastructure/space and greening initiatives/case studies to promote health benefits, through recreation, stress reduction, physical activity etc. There were also studies focusing on governance structures for implementing NBS for urban societal challenges, including research topics such as collaborative planning, mainstreaming, flood management approaches, and practical NBS implementation. Many of the studies contextualised NBS as green infrastructure or ecosystem-based adaptation measures. The scope of the studies ranged from empirical studies based on interviews or document analysis, to reflection and conceptual publications, developing frameworks and guiding principles to support the planning, implementation, and management of urban NBS.
The definitions of NBS (see chapter 2) all agree that they are interventions that provide environmental benefits. Moreover, both the IUCN and UNEP definitions specify that NBS provide biodiversity benefits. Consequently, it is important that governmental requirements and support for the implementation and maintenance of NBS reflect this aspect, to ensure that the interventions do in fact contribute positively to biodiversity.
In Denmark, the term biodiversity is mentioned as part of the discussion about NBS, but without any real, concrete focus on how NBS can support biodiversity, and without clear targets. NBS and biodiversity issues are mentioned most often in relation to urban systems, as well as in projects aimed at primary climate adaptation in forests, freshwater and marine systems. Most focus on biodiversity comes from other frameworks, such as the new nature and biodiversity package from 2020 (WWF, 2020). With restoration efforts in, for example, peatlands and forests, there are obvious synergies between biodiversity enhancement and climate change mitigation, even if these are not expressed using the term NBS (Dinesen et al., 2021). Urban systems differ from natural ecosystems in that there is no target reference state for biodiversity, instead there is a vague concept of bringing nature back into cities and creating wild, green and blooming lushness via rain gardens, swales and green roofs (State of Green, 2021).
Figure 6A. Ecosystems addressed in policy documents (incl. laws, regulations, strategies and plans) and guidelines reports (e.g., research reports, status reports, analysis and more).
Figure 6B. Ecosystems addressed in policy documents (incl. laws, regulations, strategies and plans) and guidelines mentioning NBS specifically.
|Table 5. Use of the NBS concept in policy in the Nordic countries.|
|Laws and regulations||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|Policies, strategies and plans||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
The NBS concept is not integrated in the legal structure in most of the Nordic countries, with the exception being Norway. The uptake of the concept in strategies and policy texts is more frequent, especially in Norway and Sweden. All countries do, however, have legislation, strategies and policies that support the implementation of NBS, even if NBS are not mentioned specifically.
The government of Denmark has not adopted the NBS concept in their legislation, policies or strategies. The term NBS is used in some documents from the Ministry of Environment, to give an outlook on the future implementation of restoration measures, like the rewetting of organic lowlands agricultural areas. It isn’t, however, consolidated in their governmental frameworks or used to formulate any specific requirements to be addressed by public or private actors. Nevertheless, some municipalities have adopted policies which include NBS. Vejle municipality’s storm surge strategy action plan suggests several kinds of NBS amongst other measures, while Odense municipality seek to implement NBS according to their climate action plan.
Finland has not, at any administrative level (national, regional and municipal), adopted the NBS concept or any requirements for adoption. However, given that NBS are widely understood to include restoration, rehabilitation and close-to-nature environmental management, Finnish legislation (without mentioning NBS specifically) forces the landowner or land manager to carry out certain NBS actions. These mostly relate to the protection of water quality in ground water, lakes and streams, and conservation of habitat types of known importance for biodiversity (key biotopes). Examples are the Finnish Nature Conservation Act, Forest Act, Water Act, The Sustainable Forest Management Funding Act (KEMERA), The Forest Biodiversity Programme of Southern Finnish Forests (METSO), and the HELMI environmental programme.
In Iceland, there are currently no binding governmental requirements for adopting NBS. However, national authorities have repeatedly stated an interest in and a willingness to push for the implementation of nature-based solutions in general terms. They often mention afforestation – a historic issue in a soil-poor, erosion-prone country – as well as reclaiming wetlands to store carbon and help with flooding issues. On a regional and local authority level, the NBS term has not been adopted yet. However, there are efforts called blue-green surface water solutions in Urriðaholt municipality and rain gardens and surface water solutions in the municipality of Reykjavík. At a larger scale, there are projects targeting soil erosion of agricultural land all around the country.
In Norway, several public sectors are involved in, have requirements and provide support for implementing nature-based solutions. These efforts relate mainly, but not exclusively, to climate change mitigation and adaptation, or stormwater treatment. In the road transport sector, nature-based sedimentation ponds and infiltration solutions for treating road runoff have been part of the standard for road construction for certain roads since 2005 (Norwegian Public Road Administration, 2005; 2011; 2014b; 2018; 2021). Conservation and restoration of peatlands and other wetlands are considered important for climate change mitigation and therefore, the cultivation of new land (i.e., new fields for agriculture) is not allowed in peatlands, and the government is considering additional measures (i.e., regulation, fees) to reduce degradation of peatlands, whilst restoring already degraded peatlands. Most of the work on NBS in Norway relates to climate adaptation. For land-use planning, the national authorities adopted a legally binding governmental planning guideline for climate and energy planning and climate adaptation (Ministry of Climate and Environment and Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, 2018). This requires that conservation, restoration and NBS must be considered in climate adaptation planning and if these are not then included, the reasons for omitting them must be justified. Some municipalities have taken this guidance into account in their master plans and other zoning plans (e.g., Stavanger, Hemsedal, Bærum), and it is referred to in consultation responses by County Governors and other state agencies. For climate adaptation, blue-green infrastructure as a concept has been adopted in several Norwegian municipalities (e.g., Oslo, Trondheim, Lillestrøm, Bergen, Gjerdrum), of which some may be considered NBS.
In Sweden the term NBS is not included in the existing legal frameworks. However, given that NBS include restoration, rehabilitation and close-to-nature environmental management, Swedish legislation (i.e., Swedish Environmental Code, Forestry Act), although it doesn’t mention NBS specifically, forces the landowners or land managers to carry out certain NBS actions. These mostly relate to the protection of water quality, including ground water, lakes and streams, and the conservation of habitat types of known importance for biodiversity (key biotopes). In addition, there are several policies supporting the implementation of NBS, linked to policies in different sectors, such as Water framework directive, Flood directive and CAP third pillar. In addition, there are nature conservation policies related to restauration or conservation of land that, even though NBS may not be explicitly mentioned, support the implementation of NBS-like features, in relation to protected land as well as in forestry.
Figure 7. Nordic NBS case projects implementation over time, cumulative curve. Data source: Nordic NBS project catalogue (N=51)
According to IUCN, there are seven major societal challenges that should be addressed with NBS. While NBS projects usually aim to address one or two of these challenges (Figure 8), they provide additional secondary benefits. The impetus for most of the case projects in this study was to address environmental degradation and biodiversity loss (Figure 8). Climate change mitigation and adaptation, disaster risk reduction and economic and social development were each listed as challenges by around 50% of the collected NBS project cases. Secondary benefits of Nordic NBS projects included recreation, several ecosystem services, improved water quality, aesthetic improvements and wave attenuation (in decreasing frequency).
Figure 8. Main societal challenges to be solved by Nordic NBS case projects
(N=54); multiple answers per NBS project were possible; the categorization of challenges follows IUCN criteria 1 (see IUCN, 2020).
In terms of biodiversity net-gain, the case projects refer most often to increases in abundance (number of individuals) and species richness (number of different species). Provision of a larger habitat area or improved habitat connectivity were also mentioned, as they are expected to lead to biodiversity gains. Five projects specifically mentioned the preservation or recovery of endangered species as biodiversity net-gain. However, based on the information available, it is often not clear if the intended biodiversity benefits are regularly monitored, quantified and assessed after the completion of the project. It also often remains unclear if the predicted benefits have been quantified or if only qualitative predictions have been made. Quantification of benefits can be an important pre-condition to attract funding (see chapter 5.2). For 30 projects (out of 54) it was reported that benefits were quantified, while they were not quantified in 10 projects and in 14 projects no information was available. Regular monitoring and evaluation was reported to be carried out in 28 projects. In 11 projects this was not done and for 15 projects this information was not available. Regular monitoring and evaluation of NBS projects is important to provide a better evidence-base on the success of NBS, as well as to enable adapted management as suggested by IUCN.
The economic viability of NBS projects had been confirmed only in 6 projects, where a cost-benefit assessment was performed beforehand. For 31 projects, no cost-benefit assessment was done and in 17 this information was not available. In 9 cases, the NBS projects were compared to alternative solutions, while this was not done in 27 projects and no information was available for 18 projects. This lack of cost-benefit information in the case projects matches our findings in chapter 5.2 on economic shortcomings.
Figure 9. Funding sources used in Nordic NBS case projects (N=48); multiple answers per NBS project were possible; the figure does not show the share of funds coming from the different funding sources.
The funding sources for Nordic NBS case projects were most often national public budgets, followed by EU-funds (LIFE program, Interreg, European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) and local public budgets (Figure 9). Private funding from individuals, philanthropic organizations or industry were involved to a minor extent in funding. The majority of Nordic NBS case projects were funded by more than one source. These findings for Nordic NBS case projects were comparable to the results from a 2018 study, where NBS projects across 100 European cities (including 7 Nordic cities) were assessed (Almassy et al., 2018). They found that private funding was only included in approximately 25% of the NBS projects. However, the proportion of projects reporting local and regional public funding was higher than in our set of Nordic NBS case projects.
Figure 10. Before and after rewetting of Strande enge, Denmark – a former grassland area used for grazing and hay making.
Photo: Carl Christian Hoffmann, Aarhus University.
In this chapter, we will give an overview of what societal challenges can be addressed with NBS in the agricultural landscape. We will give examples of typical NBS in relation to agriculture in Nordic countries (Figure 10), including a discussion of the expected biodiversity gains and other benefits/societal benefits. We will also discuss specific barriers/challenges/issues related to implementing NBS in agricultural settings. Agriculture needs to handle several challenges and NBS can contribute to solving these.
Wetlands, ponds and diches (constructed or restored)
Wetlands in the agricultural landscapes fulfil different purposes. One main purpose is to purify run-off water from arable land by reducing nitrogen and phosphorus levels, thereby reducing eutrophication and nutrient transport to the sea. Depending on the main purpose, the geography of the area and the nutrient loads, NBS wetlands can range from smaller phosphorus traps to larger wetland areas. Research has shown that both created and restored wetlands significantly reduce the transport of nitrogen and phosphorus in agricultural runoff and may thus be effective in efforts to counteract eutrophication (Land et al., 2016).
In Denmark, there are ongoing, large‐scale actions to re‐establish riparian wetlands and shallow lakes. This is considered to be one of the most cost-effective solutions for the mitigation of diffuse pollution, so that lakes and rivers can achieve “good ecological status” within a reasonable timeframe (Hoffmann et al., 2020). Furthermore, different drainage mitigation measures are established, such as mini-wetlands or (still in the test phase) saturated buffer zones to reduce the non-point source pollution from agricultural drainage systems (Carstensen et al., 2020). In Sweden, constructed wetlands have long been used to decrease nitrogen transport from agricultural catchments to the coast. Studies have shown that the nitrogen removal varies depending on whether main purpose of the constructed wetland was to retain nutrients or to fulfil other purposes as well (e.g., biodiversity improvements) (Strand and Weisner, 2013). Another function of wetland areas and ponds is water retention, either to retain water for animal husbandry and crops during dry seasons or to slow down water runoff during downpours or rainy seasons. In Denmark, integrated buffer zones have been tested for their capability to deliver different ecosystem services, including water storage, as a subset of regulating services (Zak et al., 2019).
In Sweden, there is increasing interest in ponds, especially after the 2018 drought, in areas where there is a lack of fresh water. Wetlands and ditches to slow run-off are beginning to be built in flood-prone areas. Wetlands, ponds and ditches also contribute to agricultural biodiversity (Thiere et al., 2009). This contribution will depend on the size of the wetland and how attractive it is to, for example, different types of wetland birds and amphibians. A study from Sweden showed that birds and amphibians colonized constructed wetlands irrespective of the original objective of the wetland (nitrogen removal or biodiversity), but that some amphibian species preferred biodiversity wetlands (Strand and Weisner, 2013). These features can be important for the regional species pool and as part of a larger blue green infrastructure. The social benefits of that wetlands can contribute include recreational areas, scenic beauty as well as other cultural ecosystem services.
However, these social benefits are dependent on accessibility (paths, bridges), which can be limited in the agricultural landscape due to private land ownership.
Tree alleys, hedges shelter beds and the development of riparian zones
These features can be planted to protect soils and crops from wind and sun in a changing climate. In colder regions, tree alleys are also beneficial as they can lead to a warmer climate in the fields and, in hillier regions, hedges can reduce erosion. Hedges and trees in the agricultural landscape increase habitat diversity, which can support farmland biodiversity. Tree alleys and hedges can also make agricultural land more accessible for recreational purposes. In Sweden, hedges are not used to a large extent, while tree alleys are used in very windy areas, in areas with soil erosion problems and in areas of fruit production. In Iceland, shelter beds have been used in a similar way to hedges and alleys in warmer climatic zones. Leaving vegetation in the riparian zone untouched along streams and rivers is an NBS that has been in use for a long time in several of the Nordic countries. The focus has mainly been on their role in reducing nutrient leaching but also to protect waterways from pesticides, warming and soil erosion (Rasmussen et al., 2011).
Figure 11. Restoration of Kelp forests in Norway by removal of Sea urchins.
Photo: Pernilla Carlsson/NIVA.NIVA, Restoring Norway's underwater forests: A strategy to recover kelp ecosystems from urchin barrens. https://www.niva.no/en/reports/restoring-norways-underwater-forests
In Iceland, the concept of NBS has not historically been used to describe restoration projects. Therefore, there were no direct coastal and marine NBS to report on. However, the concept is currently widely discussed between researchers and practitioners, and a surge of NBS implementation projects is expected in Iceland the near future. To date, most projects with similar objectives have been described as blue-green solutions and often focus on increasing water quality and reducing flood risks. In recent years, hand-crafted, manufactured products have entered the food market in Iceland which are aiming to use the coastal and marine resources with minimal carbon footprint. Some NBS contribute to building habitats such as kelp forests and thus play an important role in maintaining and improving oceanic ecosystems. Specifically, the cultivation, and not just the harvest, of kelp is being trialled in several projects. Kelp can be grown in the sea on lines and offer an important habitat for many oceanic species, as well as a nursery for juvenile fish. In one project, Fine Foods ÍslandicaFine Foods Íslandica. https://finefoods.is/our-story-1 is cultivating seaweed in Breiðafjörður in the Westfjords of Iceland for use in food products such as soups, salads and other dishes. The small company produces a seafood broth using Wild Icelandic mussels, sugar kelp, mushrooms and smoked fish, all of which are sourced from local producers (Fine Foods Íslandica, 2022).
Restoration of reefs
In Denmark, the vast majority of NBS projects in the coastal and marine area are also focused on restoration, tackling climate adaptation and mitigation, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss and water security issues. Some have direct impacts on food security and economic issues such as strengthening the commercial fishery in Ringkøbing Fjord as a consequence of re-meandering the river Skjern (Pedersen et al., 2007).
Many of the projects target large areas of between 5 and 2000 ha. The smallest scale project to date is the introduction of a stone reef at Læsø Trindel in Kattegat by adding the structure and function of cavernous boulders in a soft-bottom area (Naturstyrelsen, 2013) where 100.000 boulders were put out into a 5-hectare area on the seafloor. The NBS benefits include better protection and restoration of coastal ecosystems through the promotion of the growth of marine vegetation, which in turn creates habitat and food for other species and sequesters and stores carbon. The new reefs act as substrate for organisms to settle onto and as a base of a diverse ecosystem, thus promoting ecosystem functions. As a result of this NBS, increased biomass of cod and crustaceans have been recorded. The project can also benefit climate change mitigation and flood risk reduction. Although this could not be quantified, macroalgae are thought to play a role in carbon storage and wave dampening (Oppla, 2022).
Restoration of eelgrass beds
In Sweden, NBS projects focus on restoration and conservation of marine habitats including management and restoration of eelgrass beds and assessment of underwater vegetation to reduce coastal erosion. One example of a marine NBS project describes the restoration of eelgrass habitat by sand-capping at the Swedish West Coast. Eelgrass has a stabilizing effect on the sediment, and in areas where eelgrass has been lost, a negative feedback of increased sediment resuspension and turbidity, causing poor light conditions, can prevent the regrowth of eelgrass. By covering the sediment with a layer of sand and gravel about 10 cm thick, this NBS project could help stabilize the sea floor, reduce sediment resuspension, and create favourable conditions for renewed eelgrass growth in areas of historical eelgrass beds. Around 1.800 tons of sand and gravel were placed on top of the sediment and eelgrass transplanted onto it in order to fix the sediment, reduce erosion, reduce eelgrass loss and enhance biodiversity. Subsequently, 80.000 shoots of eelgrass were planted on the area in 2022 and will continue to be monitored in coming years (Infantes, 2021).
Restoration of salt marshes
In Finland, there were no projects described with the term ‘nature-based solutions’ in the coastal and marine ecosystems in the grey literature. However, there are endeavours to restore coastal areas, especially those that are important to commercial fish stocks. Examples of restoration and rehabilitation projects to improve water quality and fish stocks in Finnish coastal regions include “flada” (type of salt marsh) habitat restoration, which often consists of cutting down swamp vegetation (notably Phragmites reed beds) in areas that used to be bays with flowing water. The aims of these projects are usually to restore the spawning grounds of local fish and to improve water quality, and they include physical restoration and fish roe monitoring to document the success. One example is at Backfladan (2019–21) on the west coast. Measures included clearing and opening a brook with an excavator to improve water flow and to support fish movements to their spawning areas. Further examples at Solbackfladan and Ytteröfladan (2018–21) on the south coast, included measures such as reed-cutting to increase water flow and to improve conditions for perch spawning. In a similar project, "glo" (another salt marsh type) restoration, stones were dug out and moved within a brook channel, to improve water flow and support brook fish at Sibbo Byträsket, southern Finland, during 2020–21 (Kuningas et al., 2021).
Although it is impossible to quantify the net biodiversity gains of marine and coastal NBS at this point, due to them rarely being described as such, the societal benefits from the implementation of coastal and marine NBS are manifold. Successful coastal and marine NBS benefit society in terms of ecosystems services and increased marine life in general. They help to filter water, produce more usable stocks and produce more oxygen as well as storing carbon which helps with the greenhouse gas emission problems. Another societal benefit of, for example, near shore vegetation is disaster risk reduction in terms of wave dissipation which protects shorelines and flood risk reduction which protects coastal housing and infrastructure.
In the Nordic Countries, coastal and marine NBS are used in a variety of ways. Although some countries use NBS more substantially in the coastal and marine area than others, the concept is gaining a foothold in the Nordics and will further develop. One crucial aspect in the future development of coastal and marine NBS is the need for cooperation across borders for synergies and sharing of expertise, but also because in some cases, effects in the larger marine systems need cooperation of multiple states and actors. In addition to working together across national states, local stakeholder engagement is crucial for successful NBS implementation and maintenance in the coastal and marine space. Ocean literacy and marine education programmes should be integral parts of marine NBS in order to engage those local stakeholders and communities.
Figure 12. Retention trees in a gap-harvested stand.
Photo: Matti Koivula, Luke.
Wooded water-edge ecosystems and spruce mires have been extensively studied in the retention context and are important for moist-habitat specialists and deadwood-dependent species (Koivula et al., 2022). To mitigate micro-climatic alterations and changes in water-associated species communities, 25–35 m wide and unharvested or only selectively cut shelterbelt forests (buffer zones) should be applied (Hasselquist et al., 2021; Koivula et al., 2022). This is in line with the above-suggested retention-patch size. Moreover, deciduous trees and deadwood should be retained in forest streams and spring habitats for biodiversity (ibid.). Within managed landscapes, most mires host less deadwood than they would in pristine conditions, and may often also be harvested, although their retention in forestry operations is mandatory (see national forestry legislation). This is at least partly unintended, as harvesting is often done in winter months when such patches are not visible because of snow cover. Retention of water-edge and mire habitats greatly supports policy goals on increasing deadwood and securing biodiversity.
Continuous-cover forestry benefits species that require tree cover and shade. However, per se it does not produce structural features required by red-listed species, such as very old trees and large-sized dead wood (Koivula et al., 2022; Routa and Huuskonen, 2022). This is because in principle it is just another way of producing timber – an alternative for even-aged forest management based on regeneration through clear-cutting – and targets the largest trees in a stand. Clearly, if preservation of red-listed species is a priority, these features must be taken care of separately. Continuous-cover forestry may be a better option than conventional forestry in terms of nutrient leaching and carbon balance (Routa and Huuskonen, 2022).
Deadwood preservation and creation
The amount of deadwood in Nordic managed forests is more than an order of magnitude lower than in pristine conditions, to which deadwood-dependent species are evolutionarily adapted (2–10 versus 20–150 m3/ha, depending on site type and geographic region; Koivula et al., 2022). One consequence is that hundreds of deadwood-dependent species are in Nordic red lists. Research evidence on the importance of deadwood for red-listed species has in the present millennium led to general recommendations of retaining deadwood to support deadwood-dependent species. However, in Finland these have not led to improvements of nature-oriented management, on the contrary: many NBS levels have declined since the late 1990s (Siitonen et al., 2020).
To support these species and to maintain the dead wood in managed forests, retention of existing dead wood in harvesting operations may be the most cost-efficient way (Koivula et al., 2022). In regeneration operations, the operator should avoid harvesting large-sized dead trees for energy-wood purposes and to use only light – if any – top-soil preparation (ibid.). The amount of dead wood remaining after logging may be a more important determinant of deadwood-dependent species than the applied logging method. Living retention trees are part of the cycle, as they die at some point contributing to the deadwood continuity at a site. Assuming that deadwood continuity would be secured only by using living retention trees during each 100-years cycle, the volume of 10 m3/ha of deadwood in the long term would require a permanent retention of about 30 m3/ha of living trees (Koivula et al., 2022). Deadwood can be added into managed forests through, e.g., setting aside key biotopes, retaining trees permanently at regeneration sites, creating artificial snags and applying prescribed burning, but also by increasing the logging-rotation length, and reducing the use of precommercial thinning (ibid.).
Artificial snags – 3–5 m tall high stumps left in clear-cuts – are common in Nordic managed forests. They were first applied in the early 1990s without evidence for them supporting deadwood-dependent species, but since then research has shown them to be useful particularly for beetles, including many red-listed species (Koivula et al., 2022). However, for saproxylic fungi – commonly referred to as polypores – except for the base parts of the trees, they rapidly become too dry (ibid.). For these fungi, downed large trees appear to be more important substrates.
Forest fires used to be a key determinant of the dynamics and structure of Nordic forests, whereas at present they are scarce events, despite some major fires in Sweden in the past few years (Gustafsson et al., 2019a). Consequently, fire-driven habitats and fire-dependent species have become rare. Burned wood supports fire specialists and, as fire weakens and kills trees, hundreds of saproxylic species (Koivula et al., 2022). From a biodiversity perspective, instead of conventional prescribed burning, it would be good to burn large stands with relatively abundant large trees (Figure 13). This is because the amount of burned wood appears to be an important determinant of biodiversity benefits (ibid.). However, as this action might be controversial, particularly nearby human settlement, it could be applied in a few tailored fire-continuity areas (Lindberg et al., 2020).
Figure 13. Prescribed-burn and deadwood creation experiment in the municipality of Hämeenlinna, Southern Finland.
Photo: Matti Koivula, Luke.
Nordic boreal forests harbour several tens of thousands of species. Hundreds of years of rather intense forest use has made more than 10% of these species threatened with extinction. As a response to this trend, the EU Biodiversity Strategy requires member countries to act to "put Europe’s biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030". Common generalists and open-habitat species thrive in Nordic managed forests, whereas species that are dependent on forest structural features that are scarce because of forestry require targeted actions to survive. These features include large-sized living and dead trees and certain kinds of forest habitat, such as post-fire forests. Nature-based solutions are intended to increase these features, notably retention of living trees, logging methods other than clear-cutting, retention and production of deadwood and prescribed burning.
The above-reviewed research indicates that biological responses to NBS vary among different groups of species, and that many effects are detectable for more than ten years, possibly over the full rotation of 60–90 years. However, the research-covered time scale has thus far been relatively short because the assessed NBS, with the notable exception of fire, have been applied in forest management only for about 20–30 years. Research covering 50–100 years since treatments would be crucial for assessing, for example, extinction debt caused by forestry, or the full decay process of artificial snags. Moreover, we cannot say whether, e.g., continuous-cover forestry applied 60–80 years ago has cumulative effects on biodiversity compared to documented impacts of once applying selection or gap cutting in relatively old stands. The above-reviewed NBS methods are commonly applied in all Nordic countries, and even if they are not all equally studied in all the countries, they nevertheless support red-listed species and bring back elements of pristine forests into managed woodlands. Thus, despite the above-listed shortcomings in available research data, NBS measures are very useful from ecological, social and (with some reservations) economic viewpoints. It is a matter of debate, then, whether the economic investments in NBS in managed forests should be allocated to purchasing forests for permanent protection.
Figure 14. Example of a constructed wetland (subsurface flow) for water purification in the open land. Left: the constructed wetland just after implementation. Right: two years after implementation (DK).
Photo: Carl Christian Hoffmann, Aarhus University.
Typical NBS in freshwater ecosystems in the Nordics have addressed eutrophication of aquatic ecosystems and more recently climate change. They include measures that can be seen as restorative interventions such as wetland restoration and afforestation as well as measures that are to some extent engineered in order to stimulate processes required to enhance ecosystem service benefits (see Table 6). For example, in some areas, to stimulate water purification, drainage pipes can be disconnected at the field margin and drainage water diverted into the riparian zone in lateral distribution pipes running parallel to the stream to create anoxic conditions in the whole area to support denitrification. Another example is to let the drainage water pass a sedimentation pond followed by sequential zones of one-meter-deep open water and 0.3 m deep shallow vegetation zones before the outlet to the stream. All the listed measures in Table 6 have been applied in the Nordic region and target nitrogen pollution with some of them also targeting phosphorus.
In addition to water purification, restoration of freshwater ecosystems can also stimulate carbon sequestration and in cases with high contents of organic matter within the soil, such as in degraded peatlands, restoration can also play a pivotal role in reducing the emission of climate gases to the atmosphere. All types of peatlands share the common characteristic of being water-saturated up to the soil surface, at least seasonally, with actively forming peat (Hristov, 2004). Globally only about 3% of the land area is peatland (De La Haye et al., 2021), however, Iceland and Finland stand out with a proportion of 20% or 30%, respectively (The Soil Conservation Service of Iceland, 2021d). In Iceland, it has been estimated that degraded peatlands can contribute to about 70% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (The Soil Conservation Service of Iceland, 2021c) and rewetting is therefore increasingly considered as an NBS for climate regulation (Aradóttir, et al., 2013). In Denmark, for example, 20,000 ha of low-laying soils are to be rewetted within the coming years to reduce climate gas emission. Following rewetting, peatland may successfully continue to store carbon (De La Haye et al., 2021). In addition to climate regulation, peatlands also provide many other important services, such as mitigating floods and droughts (De La Haye et al., 2021; The Soil Conservation Service of Iceland, 2021d) and peatlands are also able to purify water and to reduce the risk of wildfires in areas with abundant peatlands (De La Haye et al., 2021).
Furthermore, NBS that involve reconnecting the stream with its floodplain can also reduce flooding of downstream areas, as well as increase resilience to drought, since a disconnection of drainage pipes will halt water within the system. A very short summary of the main solutions is provided in the Table 6 below, as well as key references for each of the NBS.
For most of the listed NBS in Table 6, only very limited evidence exists for long term effects on biodiversity. This reflects that biodiversity conservation targets have rarely been identified, benchmarked or assessed in these projects. Also, the measures can be combined in different ways and depending on how and where, the benefits for biodiversity can vary. For some of the NBS, biodiversity benefits can be expected at the local scale, in terms of increases in the number of species that can be found. NBS which create increased areas of open water and/or altered hydrological conditions can lead to more birds visiting an area and higher numbers of insects, but at the same time these benefits cannot always be interpreted as improvements for biodiversity. For further discussion on this see chapter 5.1.2.
For some of the listed NBS in Table 6, their implementation may involve a risk of phosphorus loss to the aquatic environment, resulting from high soil availability due to former land use practices. This loss may continue for years, and measures to reduce this loss are therefore increasingly applied together with the NBS. These include harvesting of biomass before introducing the NBS (e.g., cattail, reed), topsoil removal and placement of phosphorus retention filters in wetland outflows, but for the moment these measures are still in the testing phase as pre- or accompanying measures to the NBS. Sedimentation of particulate phosphorus during inundation of floodplains can also be a measure that reduces phosphorus loss to lakes and coastal areas. At the same time high loads of phosphorus will affect the development of the vegetation within the floodplain and hence negatively affect the biodiversity outcome of the NBS.
|Table 6. Overview of different types of measures that can be seen as nature-based solutions for water purification, flood and drought mitigation and climate regulation in Nordic countries (a detailed description can be found, for example in Hoffmann et al. 2020). Some of the measures are purely restorative interventions while others have in-built technical solutions to enhance the NBS functioning. The extent of technical solution as part of the NBS is scaled from low to high (1–3) in the table.|
|NBS type||Main societal challenge(s) addressed||Main approach||Technical solution |
|Restoration of wetlands, including peatlands swamps and fens||Water purification; Flood and Drought mitigation; Climate regulation||Reestablishment of the natural hydrology. Most projects are undertaken in riparian wetlands and degraded peatlands by disconnecting drain pipes and ditches. Furthermore, in cases where there is an adjacent river that is channelized, a re-meandering of the reach is often carried out||1|
|Re-establishment of shallow lakes and ponds||Water purification, Climate regulation||1|
|Saturated buffer zones||Water purification;||Drain pipes are disconnected at the field margin and drainage water is diverted into the riparian zone in a lateral distribution pipe running parallel to the stream. From the lateral pipe, the drainage water infiltrates the riparian soil towards the stream, which will cause the riparian soil to become saturated and consequently create anoxic conditions that support denitrification||2|
|Integrated buffer zone||Water purification||A pond is established where soil particles present in drain water can settle out combined with a sub-surface flow infiltration zone planted with vegetation||3|
|Subsurface flow constructed wetlands||Water purification||Different design solutions have been studied, including both vertical and horizontal flow, as well as the establishment of a storage pond in front of the bioreactor (e.g., wood chips as substrate) to mitigate peak flow events and increase sedimentation||3|
|Surface flow constructed wetlands||Water purification||Drainpipes are disconnected and the drainage water passes through a sedimentation pond, followed by sequential zones of one-meter-deep open water and 0.3 m deep shallow vegetation zones before the outlet to the stream||3|
|Drain water irrigation||Water purification||Drainpipes are disconnected at the field margin and the drain water is distributed over a gutter inserted at the soil surface or via distribution channels placed parallel to the stream||3|
Figure 15. Examples for urban NBS enhanced by facilities to make them more attractive for users. Left: Pond for water cleaning as part of a reopened river stretch amended with steppingstones. Right: urban green area with a barbecue facility; both examples are from Oslo (NO).
Photo: Isabel Seifert-Dähnn, NIVA.
Figure 16. Enghaven park i Copenhagen (DK) can be considered as an NBS.
In case of heavy rainfall parts or the whole park can be flooded and will function as a large retention basin for stormwater; The sports ground on the right picture is considered as a park amenity, which provides recreational values and works as retention basin – it should not be considered as stand-alone NBS.
Photo: Ingvild Skumlien Furuseth, NIVA.
When it comes to biodiversity gains from NBS in cities, an often-raised argument is that NBS provide additional habitat and are therefore positive for biodiversity. However, biodiversity gains are not obtained automatically, they depend to a large degree on how species are selected and managed in an NBS. Are native or non-endemic species chosen? Sometimes non-endemic species can better withstand the harsh living conditions in an urban environment, such as drought conditions in summer, temporary flooding after heavy rainfall, salt runoff in winter, limited root space for vegetation and freezing-thawing dynamics. Is the NBS artificially planted or is it naturally recolonized? Is regular maintenance work done such as cutting and weeding or is rewilding the main management strategy? There is also a scale aspect to this: Many urban NBS are fragmented and lack connectivity to other NBS. Or they lack continuity, such as urban streams, which are disrupted by culverts where streets are crossing, and other fish migration barriers occur. This fragmentation leads to situations where full biodiversity benefits cannot be obtained.
One challenge for mainstreaming urban NBS in Nordic cities is the limited availability of space. In general, urban NBS are often smaller than similar NBS types in the countryside, as they compete for space with other land-uses, especially in fast growing cities like the Nordic capitals. This limited availability of space often applies to public areas. One solution used by Nordic city governments is regulations, which influence the management of NBS on private areas. These regulations include i.e., restrictions on felling large private trees, area sealing restrictions on private properties or use of performance-based green area indicators as used in Stockholm, Malmö (Sweden) and Oslo (Norway). Another solution to the space problem is to design urban NBS so that they fulfil multiple purposes. However, a downside of this multi-functionality is that the NBS do/may not perform all functions as expected or that there is a trade-off between different NBS functions. For example, raingardens are meant to store, infiltrate and clean stormwater, but they are sometimes also used as dog walking areas depending their location and design. Dog excrement poses a challenge for the plants and can also lead to hygienic problems. A related but opposite challenge arises when artificial NBS do not have the required environmental quality to allow for the hoped-for recreational use (see example in Figure 17). Another challenge is the “over-use” of urban NBS by humans, which can, for example lead to damaged vegetation from walking, sport activities or barbecues. Vegetation in urban NBS is also challenged by the harsh environmental conditions which exist in cities, such as salt-runoff in winter, frequent change between freezing-thawing conditions, physical stress due to humans or vehicles. Urban NBS should be designed in a way to withstand these pressures, but this is often not so easy. So, it is very important to perform regular monitoring of urban NBS, to learn for future projects and adapt the NBS management if needed (see also chapter 5.1.1).
Figure 17. Example from Oslo (Norway): Bjerkedalen park was a combination of a stream reopening project embedded in a park area. Left: small, reopened stream stretch. Right: At the lower end of the park a small beach was created, but the current water quality does not allow for bathing or playing with the water.
Photo: Isabel Seifert-Dähnn, NIVA.
NBS governance and implementation is an area that is currently advancing rapidly. At the same time, there are still several challenges, but also opportunities, for using NBS to mitigate and adapt to climate change, protect biodiversity and ensure human well-being (Seddon et al., 2020). Here we summarize some important challenges and opportunities for mainstreaming NBS in the Nordics. The summary is based on discussions within the project group, outcomes of the stakeholder workshop, and existing grey and scientific publications. One of most recent and comprehensive summaries is done by the EU project NetworkNature, which mapped knowledge gaps, research and innovation needs related to the mainstreaming of NBS in Europe. This was done through an online consultation, an in-person workshop and a review of the existing European policy documents and publications. The project has also established a NBS knowledge gaps database.Network Nature NBS knowledge gaps database. https://networknature.eu/nbs-knowledge-gaps Many of the challenges NetworkNature found were location specific, but they identified four broad categories of challenges and knowledge gaps, which were related to the governance of NBS, the technical design of NBS, evaluation of NBS and capacity building for NBS (El Harrak and Lemaître, 2022b). In another recent study Seddon et al. (2020) conclude that the three main financial and governance challenges for NBS were: measuring the effectiveness of NBS (see also chapter 5.1.1), mobilizing investments for the implementation of NBS and overcoming governance challenges. Many of these challenges are also found the Nordic countries and are described in more detail in the following chapters.
Figure 18. The figure displays some key aspects to consider when evaluating biodiversity net gain in relation to the implementation of an NBS.
Source: own elaboration AU.
NBS also have substantial potential for biodiversity benefits by increasing habitat connectivity, but the evidence for this remains limited (Pettorelli et al., 2021). In Figure 18, we advocate that both scale, context-dependency and target species should be considered when setting biodiversity targets when implementing an NBS, and, equally importantly, that well-adjusted monitoring should be a mandatory element to follow-up biodiversity outcomes both on the short- and long term. For each NBS, the types of targets may differ; for example, the target could be to increase the percentage of restored ecosystem area, the return of a locally extinct species, or an increase in the number of species in a given area. Ideally, an NBS should improve biodiversity over the long term and across a large area by linking conservation efforts with more specific NBS measures within the region. Provided that monitoring takes place, this link will also enable us to learn more of the efficiency of different NBS that can be applied in the Nordic region and to assess the effectiveness of these and eventually adapt further management to halt biodiversity declines.
With the increasing uptake of the NBS concept in science, policy and practice, there is a corresponding need to ensure that the concept is clearly understood, communicated and implemented in a manner that assures that societal challenges are solved, and biodiversity as well as climate adaptation and mitigation are supported. The multi-functional character of NBS provide a great opportunity to address several societal and environmental challenges simultaneously. This also makes governance, implementation and operation of NBS challenging as many stakeholders’ needs must be considered and weighed and a strong cross-sectoral cooperation is required. A strong reason to implement NBS is that it focuses simultaneously on bending the curve of biodiversity loss, the adaptation and mitigation to climate change and has a strong focus on societal challenges.
In this project, we found that Nordic researchers are increasingly being involved in European and national research projects, thus actively contributing to and providing a stronger evidence-base related to NBS. This includes the multi-functionality of the societal benefits and biodiversity gains, design and implementation, governance, cost-effectiveness, financing, monitoring and management, as well as other aspects related to NBS. These academic activities should be sustained in order to strengthen the position of the Nordic countries as role models for successful NBS implementation.
In most Nordic countries NBS are used for climate change mitigation and adaptation and to reduce pollution, in addition to having biodiversity benefits. Other societal challenges are addressed to a lower extent but also have great potential. Successful examples of NBS projects exist in all Nordic countries and across all ecosystems considered in this report. Our policy assessment showed that the Nordic countries have different approaches and policy frameworks for planning and implementing NBS, which is reflected in the existence of clearly defined governance structures and the availability of supporting materials to implement NBS. All Nordic countries have legislation, strategies and policies that support conservation, restoration and sustainable use of NBS, although they do not necessarily call it NBS, but use related terms. These legislations, strategies and policies have room for improvement in all Nordic countries and the lack of coordination and understanding between the sectors working to implement NBS needs to be addressed when doing so.
We find similar challenges and opportunities for mainstreaming NBS in the Nordics as have been found in other countries. These include shortcomings in monitoring and evaluation of NBS, lack of clear definitions and targets for biodiversity gains, technical and ecological knowledge gaps, economic difficulties related to cost-benefit assessment and funding mechanisms of NBS, regulatory, governance and policy challenges as well as potential for improvements to the participatory processes for stakeholders. Our key messages and future recommendations to overcome these challenges can be found in the next chapter.
This report provides a status overview on how NBS are implemented in the Nordics and concludes with the following key messages and recommendations for the future mainstreaming of NBS:
Clear political prioritization is needed to mainstream NBS into policy and practice: NBS can address the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and other societal challenges (e.g., food security, water security, human health, disaster risk reduction, social and economic development) simultaneously. The use of NBS should therefore be made a clear political priority. There is a need to actively steer away from “business-as-usual" i.e., from choosing technical or engineering solutions without considering and, when possible, implementing NBS. If possible, the conservation and protection of important ecosystems should be prioritised as the first solution. If this is not possible; one should consider restoration actions or implementation of other types of NBS. Sustainable use and management of ecosystems should always be prerequisites for NBS.
Appropriate institutional structures, procedures and policy instruments at all governance levels are essential to facilitate the implementation of NBS: To advance the implementation of NBS, there is a need to transform institutional structures and policy instruments across different sectors. The use of NBS should always be considered in land-use planning and decision-making; and NBS should be made the preferred solution, if multi-functionality and cost-effectiveness, in comparison to alternative solutions, can be proven. We recommend that:
Better funding structures for NBS are needed: In order to have more funds for NBS available in the future, the consortium suggests the following:
Common standards and guidelines are needed to support increased adoption of NBS including setting clear biodiversity targets: The use of a global standard such as the one developed by IUCN could help to solve several of the challenges related to NBS implementation. Such a standard can serve as an instrument to raise awareness and provide a holistic picture of the interwoven aspects to be considered for successfully implementing NBS. Public authorities should consider whether it would be useful to define minimum requirements concerning the quality of NBS interventions including requirements for biodiversity benefits and considering the cost-effectiveness of the solutions.
Long-term monitoring and more comprehensive cost-benefit evaluation of NBS is required: There is a general lack of information about baseline conditions, current and future conditions and effects of implemented NBS, which makes adaptive management difficult. Sufficient before and after data is key to reduce uncertainty about NBS effectiveness, define minimum requirements for quality and performance of NBS interventions, increase the trust in NBS, attract funding and enable adaptive management of NBS. Related to this issue, it is necessary to:
The knowledge base in all phases of NBS projects needs to be strengthened: Knowledge-sharing is vital in the planning, design, implementation, operation and evaluation of NBS. The results and knowledge should be broadly communicated, targeting key actors (e.g., policymakers, decision-makers, researchers, and practitioners). A major driving force for this need is that there is generally a higher competence available for technical solutions among relevant actors. This is the case for both the private and public sector, which has created an implementation bias towards technical solutions. Therefore, it is necessary to:
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The government of Denmark has compared to some other Nordic countries so far not adopted the NBS concept in their legislation and policy strategies. The term as such is used in some documents of the Ministry of Environment but it is currently more exclusively used to give an outlook on future implementation of restoration measures like rewetting of organic lowlands but not consolidated in their govern|mental framework or formulating any specific requirements to be addressed by public or private actors. However, the Danish parliament has adopted a subsidy scheme to incentivise landowners to take 100.000 ha drained organic soils out of production and rewet them to decrease the GHG emission from agriculture (Klimarådet, 2020).
|Table 7. Support material provided to facilitate NBS planning, implementation and management by academic institutions, consultancies and interest organizations in Denmark.|
|Academic institutions, consultancies and interest organisations||Environment and climate||Primary industries||Land-use planning||Infrastructure|
|Guidelines and tools||Ecological restoration of coastal areas by including environmental, architectural and cultural aspects as well as the participation of administrations and societal sectors with the aim of preparing optimal NBS.1|
WWF's nature policy proposal for the nature and biodiversity package incl. initiatives for a greener Denmark also to improve the opportunity for private individuals to strengthen biodiversity2
|Nature-based solutions for rainwater management in Danish cities7 |
Shaping cities by nature-based solution for climate adaption and green urban development8 Teaching material about sustainable urban development, climate adaption and NBS9
A numeric tool for planning the construction of urban rain beds10
|In-depth knowledge targeting practitioners and public administration||Conserve and restoration of peatlands and forests to combat two global environmental crises, the loss of biodiversity and climate change3 |
Scientific literature review to analyse key options for nature-based solutions and their multiple benefits, as well as their potential trade-offs and limitations for relevant sectors in Europe (water, forests and forestry, agriculture, urban and coastal areas)4
|General information for the public||Establishment of artificial reefs to protect the coast and support processes improving water quality and biodiversity5||Restoration of wetlands and implementation of nature-based technologies to obtain clean fresh water6||NBS to protect coastal cities against storm surges11|
Development of sustainable green cities12
1 Coastal protection and adaptation to rising sea levels: ecological consequences and innovative solutions (Quintana et al., 2021)
2 More and better nature experiences for the Danes WWF's proposals for efforts and content (WWF, 2020)
3 Synergi in conservation of biodiversity and climate change mitigation – Nordic peatlands and forests (Dinesen et al., 2021).
4 Nature-based solutions in Europe: Policy, knowledge and practice for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction (European Environment Agency, 2021)
5 Rock reefs in the coastal zone (Foreningen Hunderevet, 2019)
6 Recreated wetlands and clean fresh water (Ministry of children and education, 2021).
7 The climate battle, 12 solutions for rainwater management (Green Cities Denmark, 2021)
8 Nature based solutions - Using rainwater as a resource to create resilient and liveable cities (State of Green, 2021)
9 Greenopolis (INTUGREEN, 2019)
10 Inclusion of rainbeds in SCALGO Live by linking to DTU's LAR potential calculator (DTU, 2022)
11 Architectural researchers: Drop the high-water walls and use nature-based climate protection instead (Klimamonitor, 2022)
12 Climate adaptation – from thought to action (Aktuelt Naturvidenskab, 2020)
The grey literature search for Finland was conducted in January-March 2022 and included all steps including snowballing. The national government (including all ministries) and relevant national governmental bodies were targeted. The five largest county (region, maakunta) authorities and 15 randomly-selected municipalities (kunta) were targeted. As to the academic literature, relevant institutes (Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Finnish Environment Institute (Syke), European Forest Institute (EFI), Metsähallitus Luontopalvelut, Ministries of Agriculture & Forestry and Environment) and universities providing environmental education and research (Helsinki, Turku, Jyväskylä, Tampere, Eastern Finland, Lapland, Aalto) were targeted either directly through their own databasesSee for example University of Helsinki, publications. https://researchportal.helsinki.fi/fi/publications/ or through Theseus database for theses made in universities of applied sciencesOpen Repository Theseus - the theses and publications of the Universities of Applied Sciences on the Internet. https://www.theseus.fi/ and Finna database for national libraries, including universities.Finna.fi, a search service for finding fascinating material from archives, libraries, museums and other organisations. https://www.finna.fi/?lng=en-gb We also applied a Google search for other sources, including commercial and non-commercial organizations (e.g., World Wildlife Fund, ProAgria). All publications found during this exercise which included the term nature-based solutions, were added to the matrix. The searches concerned all publications until present (2022).
Some sources produced multiple hits for “nature-based solutions” (e.g., 62 in the city of Helsinki web page alone; 19 Jan 2022). However, after pruning duplicates or non-projects we ended up having only 26 unique documents and websites to be added to the Finnish data matrix. All detected materials were published during the last seven years. The earliest was a description of the project “Nature-based solutions for societal challenges” by the Finnish Environment Institute (Syke) from 2016.
Finland has not at any administrative level (national, regional and municipal) adopted the NBS concept or any requirements for NBS adoption. However, assuming NBS is understood widely as containing restoration, rehabilitation and close-to-nature environmental management, Finnish legislation (without mentioning NBS specifically) forces the landowner or land manager to carry out certain NBS actions. These mostly relate to protection of water quality, including ground water, lakes and streams, and conservation of habitat types of known importance for biodiversity (key biotopes). Examples are the Finnish Nature Conservation Act, Forest Act, Water Act, The Sustainable Forest Management Funding Act (KEMERA), The Forest Biodiversity Programme of Southern Finnish Forests (METSO), and the HELMI environmental programme.
Out of the 17 identified supporting grey-literature materials, eight were press releases or blogs describing the importance of NBS. A total of seven of these came from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and from the Ministry of Environment, whereas the rest were from Luke or Syke. Four of the documents described research projects, four reported on NBS results, and one was a policy paper by the Ministry of Environment with international collaborators. Furthermore, ten documents described urban or "artificial" environments, and quite a few dealt with forest, freshwater or agricultural habitats.
|Table 8. Support material provided to facilitate NBS planning, implementation and management by national authorities in Finland. |
Material resulting from commissions from the public authorities is sorted under the actor who commissioned the projects.
|National authorities||Environment and climate||Primary industries||Land-use planning||Infrastructure|
|Guidelines and tools||EU preparations for UN biodiversity targets1|
|In-depth knowledge targeting practitioners and public administration||Open-air laboratories for nature-based solutions to manage environmental risks2|
Finnish biodiversity strategy evaluation3
Sustainable recovery boosts the necessary transformations in society4
Suomen biodiversiteettistrategian ja toimintaohjelman 2012–2020 toteutuksen ja vaikutusten arviointi3Evaluation of national forest strategy 20255
|Evaluation of national forest strategy 20256||Finnish biodiversity strategy evaluation3|
Suomen biodiversiteettistrategian ja toimintaohjelman 2012–2020 toteutuksen ja vaikutusten arviointi3
Evaluation of national forest strategy 20255
|General information for the public (e.g., webpages, fact sheets)||Building a climate-resilient Europe – Commission published a new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change9|
|Biodiversity loss can be stopped6|
Finland has good possibilities to utilize NBS in climate change adaptation and protecting biodiversity7
Best Finnish action for nature was "Save the bee"-campaign by YLE8
1 EU Preparations for UN Biodiversity Targets (EU2019.FI – Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union).
2 Open-air laboratories for nature-based solutions to manage environmental risks. OPERANDUM. (Luke)
3 Suomen biodiversiteettistrategian ja toimintaohjelman 2012–2020 toteutuksen ja vaikutusten arviointi (Statsrådet, 2020) https://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-287-915-8
4 Sustainable recovery boosts the necessary transformations in society (Ministry of the Environment, 2020).
5 Kansallinen metsästrategia 2025 – päivitys. (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland 2019).
6 Luonnon monimuotoisuuden väheneminen voidaan pysäyttää (Syke - Finnish Environment Institute, 2020)
7 Undersökning: I Finland finns det goda förutsättningar att utnyttja naturbaserade lösningar vid anpassningen till klimatförändringarna och vid bevarandet av den biologiska mångfalden (Statsrådets utrednings- och forskningsverksamhet, 2019).
8 Den bästa insatsen för naturen 2019–2020 var Yles kampanj Pelasta pörriäinen (Miljøministeriet, 2021)
9 Building a climate-resilient Europe – Commission published a new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Finland, 2021)
The grey literature search for Iceland was undertaken between December 2021 and June 2022. First, the English and Icelandic terms (náttúrulegar lausnir, náttúrumiðaðar lausnir) for NBS were searched, but yielded only few results. First, national authorities’ and agencies’ websites were targeted, such as Umhverfisstofnun (Environment Agency of Iceland), Landvernd (Icelandic Environment Association) and the Government of Iceland with its ministries. Next, search engines were searched, starting with google scholar for academic papers, Skemman, the national academic database including all universities, and finally google. Furthermore, all regional websites (Iceland does not have regional governments as such) were targeted, as well as 15 local authorities (ten most populous and five random). With this initial search, only eight relevant results were found. Of those, four came from the government, three from academic papers and one from Reykjavik municipality.
There are currently no binding governmental requirements for adopting NBS in Iceland. However, national authorities have repeatedly stated an interest in and a willingness to push for implementation of nature-based solutions on a rather general scale. They often mention afforestation – a historic issue in a soil-poor, erosive country – as well as reclaiming wetlands to store carbon and help with flooding issues. These two main foci can be seen in the policies and statements as mentioned in the Table 9 below.
On a regional and local authority level, the only results that could be found were dealing with blue-green surface water solutions in Urriðaholt municipality and raingardens and surface water solutions in the municipality of Reykjavík. They were found using alternative search terms.
|Table 9. Governmental requirements for adopting NBS from the national authorities in Iceland.|
|National authorities||Environment and climate||Primary industries||Land-use planning||Infra-|
|Laws and regulations|
|Policies, strategies and plans||NBS as one of the future scenarios discussed with stakeholders in the Low Emission Development Strategy1|
Environmental Minister stresses the importance of nature-based solutions like afforestation, revegetation, and reclamation of wetlands, detailing the official line of strategy of the Icelandic Government on NBS2
|Prime Ministerial announcement of intent to be more ambitious in environmental development and push NBS3,4|
|The Iceland Scientific Committee on Climate Change has estimated that a large proportion of greenhouse gas emissions in Iceland come from drained wetlands. Land wetlands (moorland) cover about 9000 km2 or about 20% of the green area of Iceland. It is estimated that about 50% of the area has been disturbed by drainage. Wetland types in Iceland include swamps, bays, lakes and streams, seaweeds, mud and beaches, as well as shallowly down to a depth of six meters. In the spring of 2016, the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland was assigned for wetland restoration projects in accordance with the Icelandic Government's Strategy on Climate Change. In 2019, six areas were reclaimed in cooperation with different stakeholders.5|
1 On the Path to Climate Neutrality - Iceland's Long-term Low Emission Development Strategy (Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources, 2021)
2 Increased efforts for climate adaptation, nature-based solutions (Government of Iceland, 2021)
3 Iceland announces enhanced ambition at Climate Ambition Summit (Prime Minister, 2020)
4 Prime Minister's address at the Arctic Circle October 10th, 2019 (Prime Minister, 2019)
5 Wetland Restoration 2019 (The Soil Conservation Service of Iceland, 2021)
Iceland does not have an overarching strategy to support NBS projects as the term is not yet widely used in policies. However, NBS seems to be gaining momentum in Iceland as is evident by current seminars, workshops and practitioner meetings and we expect a deepening of meaningful engagement with the concept, including facilitation support, in the near future.
There is no consolidated effort to provide guidance on NBS implementation due to the lack of use of the term and concept up until now. NBS is largely described by scientific literature and projects in Iceland, although not cohesively called NBS either, and thus the knowledge providers tend to be research institutions and those linked with environmental science, namely the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland (n.d.), the Icelandic Forest Service, the Icelandic Agricultural Advisory Centre (RML), the Icelandic Wetland Fund, Reykjavik City municipality, the University of Iceland and the Agricultural University of Iceland.
|Table 10. Governmental requirements for adopting NBS from the national authorities in Norway.|
|National authorities||Environment and climate||Primary industries||Land-use planning||Infrastructure|
|Laws and regulations||Ban on new cultivation on/in bogs1,2||For climate adaptation, conservation, restoration or NBS should be considered3||Consider road runoff treatment with NBS (instead of technical treatment options)4|
|Policies, strategies and plans||Restoration of at least 15% of deteriorated watercourses5|
Continued restoration of bogs and other wetlands; development of a national strategy to prevent bog degradation.1
Continued establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs); national plan for MPAs; assess additional protection of rare natural values in the deep sea.6
Promotion of NBS via UNEA; more NBS within the water and wastewater sector7
Increased focus on NBS to solve the climate crisis including carbon storage on topsoil, forests and kelp forest.8
|The government considers prohibition of new peat extraction.1||High importance of climate change adaptation through NBS3, 9|
Assess introduction of a fee on greenhouse gas emissions from land-use changes.1
1 White Paper 13 (2020–2021): Climate plan for 2021–2030 (Ministry of Climate and Environment, 2021)
2 Regulations on new cultivation (Ministry of Agriculture and Food, 2020)
3 Governmental planning guidelines for climate and energy planning and climate adaptation (Ministry of Climate and Environment; Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, 2018)
4 N200 Road construction - Road standard N200 (Norwegian Public Road Administration, 2021)
5 More viable watercourses: Proposal - national strategy for restoration of watercourses 2021–2030 (Directorate group for water management, 2022)
6 White Paper 29 (2020–2021): Comprehensive national plan for the conservation of important areas for marine nature (Ministry of Climate and Environment, 2021)
7 Action plans to achieve the sustainability development goals by 2030 (Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, 2021)
8 The Hurdal platform is an agreement between the sitting political parties about their priorities in government. (The Office of the Prime Minister, 2021)
9 Strategy for small towns and larger towns such as regional power centers (Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, 2021)
|Table 11. Governmental requirements for adopting NBS from regional authorities in Norway. The county authorities in all regions were targeted.|
|Regional authorities||Environment and climate||Primary industries||Land-use planning||Infrastructure|
|Laws and regulations|
|Policies, strategies and plans||Rogaland County states that NBS must be the first choice for further development.1|
Municipalities should pay special attention to blue-green structures including connection of green nature areas and open waterways (County Governor of Oslo/Viken)2
|New developments must consider use of NBS to conserve ecosystem services; required to meet the need for fauna passages, wildlife corridors and passages.3 (Viken County)|
1 Regional plans for climate adaptation in Rogaland 2020–2050 (County authority of Rogaland, 2020)
2 The County Governor of Oslo and Viken's expectations for municipal spatial planning in 2022 (County Governor of Oslo and Viken, 2021)
3 Transport Strategy 2022–2033 (County authority of Viken, 2020)
|Table 12. Governmental requirements for adopting NBS from local authorities in Norway. |
Note that only a limited number of municipalities were targeted. Note that only a limited number of municipalities were targeted – 5 municipalities with the most inhabitants, while 15 municipalities were randomly chosen.
|Local authorities||Environment and climate||Primary industries||Land-use planning||Infrastructure|
|Laws and regulations||City of Stavanger: Stormwater shall mainly be managed through NBS.1, 2|
In a specific area of Hemsedal municipality, local NBS will be planned in sparsely developed areas without common sewers.3
|Policies, strategies and plans||The City of Stavanger (according to a proposition, not yet adopted) will “preserve and further develop Stavanger's green structure. […] The green structure must be coherent, nearby, varied and nature-based”4|
In their stormwater strategy, the City of Bærum adopted an overarching principle for developing areas stating that “there should be more use of nature-based and multifunctional stormwater solutions".5
1 Municipal master plans for Stavanger 2019–2034: Regulations and guidelines (land-use part) (City of Stavanger, 2019). In 2020, Stavanger municipality was merged with three additional municipalities (Finnøy, Rennesøy and parts of Hjelmeland). This document is still legally binding until a new plan have been adopted.
2 Municipal master plans for Finnøy municipality 2019–2029: Provisions, guidelines and tables (Finnøy municipality, 2019)
3 Markegardslia-Lykkja: Municipal sector plan 2015–2027 Hemsedal municipality: Forecasts and guidelines (Hemsedal municipality, 2015)
4 Proposed area strategy for the City of Stavanger - the area element of the municipal master plan 2023–2040 (City of Stavanger, 2021)
5 Stormwater: from problem to resource! Strategy for stormwater management 2017–2030 (City of Bærum, 2017)
|Table 13. Support material provided to facilitate NBS planning, implementation and management by national public authorities in Norway. |
Material resulting from commissions from the public authorities is sorted under the actor who commissioned the projects.
|National authorities||Environment and climate||Primary industries||Land-use planning||Infra-|
|Guidelines and tools||Overview of regulations and framework conditions for municipal stormwater management, with an own chapter on NBS for stormwater management.1||Guide on planning green structures in cities and towns2. |
Guide to the governmental planning guidelines for climate adaptation, with support material on how to consider NBS in planning.3
Guide on stormwater management in land-use planning.4
|Guide on water protection through treatment methods (including NBS) in road construction, which for each method includes principle drawings, information on specific procedural conditions, design and dimensioning, operation, experiences and treatment effects.5|
|In-depth knowledge targeting practitioners and public administration||Report about existing means and measures for how NBS for climate change mitigation and adaptation may be better integrated in national management.6|
Reports commissioned by national authorities:Report on NBS for climate adaptation, which includes descriptions and assessment of different kinds of NS, examples and analyses, and a comparison of NBS versus other solutions.7
Mapping of the public administration’s need for knowledge, guidance and user support for implementing NBS for climate adaptation8
|General information for the public (e.g., webpages, fact sheets)||Information page on climate adaptation and measures to safeguard biodiversity and outdoor life in a changing climate, with descriptions and examples of NBS and reference to relevant guides and resources.9|
Fact sheet on nature as a climate solution10
1 How to handle stormwater: Overview of regulations and framework conditions for the municipality's handling of stormwater. (Norwegian Environment Agency, 2021)
2 Green structure close to cities and towns in land-use planning (Norwegian Environment Agency, 2021)
3 How to take climate change into account in planning? (Norwegian Environment Agency, 2019)
4 Guideline for handling stormwater in land-use plans: How account for water volumes? (Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate, 2022)
5 Water protection in road planning and road construction (Norwegian Public Road Administration, 2006; 2014)
6 Nature-based solutions for climate challenges in national management (Norwegian Environment Agency, 2018)
7 Nature-based solutions for climate adaptation (Magnussen, et al., 2017)
8 The solution is nature-based: A mapping of the public administration’s needs for user support regarding nature-based solutions for climate adaptation (Aanderaa, et al., 2021)
9 Nature and recreation: Climate adaptation and measures to safeguard biodiversity and outdoor life in a changing climate. (Norwegian Environment Agency, 2021)
10 Nature as a climate solution (Fremstad, 2019)
|Table 14. Support material provided to facilitate NBS planning, implementation and management by regional authorities in Norway. |
Material resulting from commissions from the public authorities is sorted under the actor who commissioned the projects. The county authorities in all regions were targeted.
|Regional authorities||Environment and climate||Primary industries||Land-use planning||Infrastructure|
|Guidelines and tools||A process guide for work with nature-based solutions for climate adaptation in Rogaland1|
|In-depth knowledge targeting practitioners and public administration||NBS was briefly mentioned in knowledge reports supporting the planning process of:|
Regional plan for climate adaptation in Rogaland 2020–20502
Regional transportation plan 2018–2027 in Sogn and Fjordane3
|General information for the public|
1 Nature-based solutions for climate adaptation: A process guide for work with nature-based solutions for climate adaptation in Rogaland (County authority of Rogaland, 2021)
2 Knowledge part: Regional plan for climate adaptation in Rogaland 2020–2050 (County authority of Rogaland, 2020)
3 Regional transport plan 2018–2027: Knowledge basis (County authority of Sogn and Fjordane, 2017). The county was merged with several other counties into the County of Vestland in 2020.
|Table 15. Support material provided to facilitate NBS planning, implementation and management by local authorities in Norway. |
Material resulting from commissions from the public authorities is sorted under the actor who commissioned the projects. Note that only a limited number of local authorities were targeted – 5 municipalities with the most inhabitants, while 15 municipalities were randomly chosen.
|Local authorities||Environment and climate||Primary industries||Land-use planning||Infra-|
|Guidelines and tools|
|In-depth knowledge targeting practitioners and public administration||Commissioned by municipalities:|
Report on restoration of biodiversity in urban sea areas (Oslo)1
Report on mass fillings in sea as nature-enhancing measures (Bærum)2
|General information for the public||City of Oslo:|
Interview with an engineer describing what happens when Oslo gets its extreme rainfalls – and how the municipality is addressing it. NBS is briefly mentioned as a solution.3
Information about climate and climate adaptation (incl. NBS) in the Grenland municipalities.4
1 Restoration of biological diversity of Oslo's urban sea areas (Rinde, et al., 2019)
2 Statement and recommendations on plans for establishing new landscapes at Lakseberget and Telenor beach at Fornebu (Rinde, Sørensen, & Haraldsen, 2019)
3 Stormwater management (City of Oslo, n.d.)
4 What happens when Oslo gets its extreme rainfalls? (City of Oslo, 2017)5 (Environment and health in Grenland, n.d.)
Norwegian academic institutes, consultancies and interest organisations provide support to public authorities by developing and providing knowledge about NBS and its management, sometimes in collaboration projects and sometimes commissioned by the authorities. As part of their education, some also wrote their master thesis on NBS.
Tools and other resources have been developed by KLIMA2050, a Centre for Research-based Innovation (SFI) focusing on climate adaptation of buildings and infrastructure – among other checklists, toolbox for landslide risk mitigation, and NBS documentation tool (Raspati, Bruaset, Sivertsen, Møller-Pedersen, & Røstum, 2019; Andenæs, Time, Muthanna, & Kvande, 2022; Sivertsen, et al., 2021; Capobianco, 2020). Moreover, Pulg et al. (2020) is developing methods (including a model tool) to safeguard better flood protection and the environmental condition of watercourses.
Identified knowledge synthesis was about NBS as landslides safety measures (Kalsnes & Capobianco, 2019), or road runoff treatment measures (Sivertsen, Raspati, Barrio, Bruaset, & Azrague, 2021). Moreover, Hancke et al. (Hancke, et al., 2021) studied the environmental impacts of kelp cultivation, while Skrindo & Mehlhoop (2021) experimented with natural revegetation from local top masses to ease negative effects of road construction on biodiversity. Handberg et al. (2020) synthesised knowledge and identified knowledge gaps concerning climate adaptation, in which they identified limited experience with NBS resulting in knowledge gaps related to the effectiveness and costs of NBS.
Lastly, quite a few Norwegian reports included recommendations for management, often by first summarizing the current status and challenges. These reports were related to river restoration (Nesheim, Moe, Ranneklev, & Furuseth, 2020), marine protection (Jørgensen, et al., 2021), efforts for coastal cods (Moland, et al., 2021), and road runoff treatment measures (Myrabø & Roseth, 1998). Brendehaug et al. (2021) studied interaction effects of climate and environment policies in management, namely synergies and side effects of several NBS for climate change mitigation and adaptation (e.g., conservation and implementation of blue-green structures, green roofs and walls, urban horticulture, natural forest and wetlands). They recommended raising the level of knowledge among elected officials, sharing knowledge and experience with NBS, making requirements for NBS clearer, and allowing trial and error in implementing NBS.
|Table 16. Support material provided to facilitate NBS planning, implementation and management by academic institutions, consultancies and interest organizations in Norway.|
|Academic institutions, consultancies and interest organisations||Environment and climate||Primary industries||Land-use planning||Infrastructure|
|Guidelines and tools||Landslide Risk Mitigation Toolbox assisting user in identifying cost-effective structural landslide risk mitigation options (incl. NBS).1 |
Handbook providing an NBS impact assessment framework, including indicators and methods to assess impacts of NBS.2
|Guideline for a documentation tool consisting of 'data structure' allowing asset managers to register useful and necessary information of NBS.3 |
Checklist for planning blue-green roofs in building applications.4
Checklist for the planning and construction process of reopening streams.5
|In-depth knowledge targeting practitioners and public administration||Knowledge synthesis and feasibility study, which identified relevant measures (incl. NBS) for restoring an urban river in Oslo, Alna.6 |
The Institute of Marine Research's expert assessment of challenges and status of work with marine protection (i.e., NBS) in Norway, incl. recommendations for future action.7
Status report on efforts for coastal cod in two marine protected areas, Færder and Ytre Hvaler national parks; summarising current knowledge/status and providing recommendations for further action (incl. conservation, sustainable use and restoration measures).8
Knowledge overview of NBS and their applicability as landslides safety measures with reference to key actors, important studies and innovation potentials.9
Study on interaction effects of environmental and climate policies (e.g., synergies and conflicts), among other the work on NBS in public administration. It provides recommendation for further action related to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and biodiversity.10
Book chapter about the regulating ecosystem services provided by NBS – and its potential to offset carbon emissions, reduce heat stress and abate air pollution.11
Report identifying research needs and measures (including NBS) to improve water quality in stormwater and urban rivers and streams.12
|Research results on the environmental impacts of kelp cultivation with recommendations to public administration on a management strategy for future monitoring of kelp facilities.13||Knowledge synthesis related to climate adaptation measures (incl. NBS) in the road sector, which identified knowledge gaps like effectiveness and costs of NBS.14 Literature review on contaminated stormwater, summarising current knowledge on NBS for road runoff treatment. 15 |
Report on microplastics in road dust, summarising current knowledge about characteristics, pathways and measures (incl. nature-based treatment solutions).16
|General information for the public||Article on the relevance of NBS as road runoff treatment measure, discussing relevant considerations in road development projects.17|
1 New tool can help more people choose nature-based solutions to reduce landslides and erosion risk along rivers and streams (Capobianco, 2020); https://www.larimit.com)
2 Evaluating the impact of nature-based solutions (European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, 2021)
3 Documentation tool of nature-based solutions – a guideline (Raspati, Bruaset, Sivertsen, Møller-Pedersen, & Røstum, 2019)
4 Risk frameworks for blue-green roofs (Andenæs, Time, Muthanna, & Kvande, 2022)
5 Stream opening as a climate adaptation measure: An overall and multidisciplinary instruction (Sivertsen, et al., 2021)
6 Alna - knowledge synthesis and feasibility study (Nesheim, Moe, Ranneklev, & Furuseth, 2020)
7 Marine protection - The Institute of Marine Research's expert assessment of challenges and status of work with marine protection in Norway (Jørgensen, et al., 2021)
8 Efforts for coastal cod - Knowledge for site-adapted reconstruction of stocks, habitats and ecosystems in Færder and Ytre Hvaler national parks (Moland, et al., 2021)
9 Nature-based Solutions: Landslides Safety Measures (Kalsnes & Capobianco, 2019)
10 Interaction effects in local environmental and climate policy: Synergies and conflicts in measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, take care of biological diversity, climate adaptation and energy change (Brendehaug, Groven, & Selseng, 2021)
11 Assessing the Potential of Regulating Ecosystem Services as Nature-Based Solutions in Urban Areas (Baró & Gómez-Baggethun, 2017)
12 Measures to achieve improved hygienic water quality for recreational activities in storm runoff water and city rivers – pre-project to identify research needs (Tryland, et al., 2017)
13 Environmental impacts of kelp cultivation and recommendations for a management strategy (Hancke, et al., 2021)
14 Knowledge and knowledge gaps to assess the profitability of climate adaptation measures in the road sector (Handberg, Selseng, Aall, & Bruvoll, 2020)
15 Contaminated stormwater. A literature study (Sivertsen, Raspati, Barrio, Bruaset, & Azrague, 2021)
16 Microplastics in road dust – characteristics, pathways and measures (Vogelsang, et al., 2020) 17 LID-relevant issues and nature-based solutions (Myrabø & Roseth, 1998)
Ongoing research activities
Norwegian institutes carry out several national and international research activities related to NBS, sometimes collaborating with regional and local authorities, consultancies and NGOs. Mainly projects about climate adaptation are undertaken in Norway.
|Table 17. Replicated NBS forest management experiments in Fennoscandia. |
To our knowledge, so far none exist in Denmark or Iceland. Note that experiment abbreviations or names may not be official; see footnote for full names and details of the experiments.
Country = location of the experiment; Est. = year of establishing the experiment / Durat. = realized or planned duration (Long = >10 years / Unkn = length unknown or unplanned) / Type = dominant tree species (Mixed = at least 2 tree species involved).
The subsequent four columns explain applied treatments as follows: /bRete = retention trees singly or in small groups in clear cut sites / CCF = continuous-cover logging methods (gap felling with gap diameter up to about 50 m; selection felling with 30–50% logging intensity) / CWD = coarse dead wood manipulation (usually artificial snags); Fire = prescribed burning applied.
The five right-hand columns show studied taxa or other assessed aspects:
Veget. = understory vegetation, including lichens and mosses / Fungi= fungi, usually polypores / Anim. = invertebrates (usually beetles, ants or spiders) or vertebrates (usually shrews or voles, or birds) sampled / Social = aesthetic or recreational values assessed / Econ. = economic viability of the applied operations assessed.
|Spruce deadwood 19||Sweden||2011||Unkn||Spruce||X||X|
|1 Djupström & Weslien 2019; |
2 Hagner 1992;
3 Lindhe & Lindelöw 2004;
4 Kaila 1998;
5 Hedenås & Ericson 2003;
6 Matveinen-Huju et al. 2006;
7 Kouki 2013;
8 Perhans et al. 2009;
9 Vanha-Majamaa et al. 2007;
10 Götmark et al. 2005;
11 Pasanen 2017;
12 Komonen et al. 2014;
13 Fossestol & Sverdrup-Thygeson 2009;
14 Selonen & Kotiaho 2013;
15 Hekkala et al. 2016;
16 Koivula et al. 2014;
17 Drössler 2016;
18 Hägglund et al. 2015;
19 Olsson et al. 2011;
20 Drössler 2016;
21 Djupström & Weslien 2019;
22 Joelsson et al. 2017.
Synthesis and mapping of status in the Nordics
Leonard Sandin, Isabel Seifert-Dähnn, Ingvild Skumlien Furuseth, Annette Baattrup-Pedersen, Dominik Zak, Johanna Alkan Olsson, Helena Hanson, Samaneh Sadat Nickayin, Maria Wilke, Matti Koivula, Marika Rastas, Caroline Enge, Kristina Øie Kvile, Lisa Lorentzi Wall, Carl Christian Hoffmann, and Rúna Þrastardóttir
ISBN 978-92-893-7461-3 (PDF)
ISBN 978-92-893-7462-0 (ONLINE)
© Nordic Council of Ministers 2022
Cover photo: Benjamin Kupilas, NIVA: Hovinbekken – a reopened stream in Oslo.
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