Partnerships for the Goals

Living Edition
| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Pinar Gökcin Özuyar, Tony Wall

Nature-Based Solutions

  • Raquel Antolin-LopezEmail author
  • Nieves Garcia-de-Frutos
Living reference work entry


“Nature-based solutions” (NBS) is a concept that has been introduced in recent years to acknowledge and promote nature as a means to bring change and deliver effective solutions to current unsustainable societies. Specifically, NBS can be understood as actions and innovations inspired and supported by nature with the aim of helping societies to address pressing environmental, social, and economic challenges such as climate change, water scarcity, food security, or risk management. NBS follow biodiversity principles and emulate the time-tested patterns and processes of ecosystems for the benefit of both people and the planet. This is an interdisciplinary approach that can help to design products, materials, and strategies that can contribute to integrating the human species and the Earth’s natural processes.


Human activity has reached a level that might imply irreversible ecological changes detrimental to human development (Eggermont et al. 2015). In recent years, environmental and social problems such as climate change, water scarcity, pollution, natural disasters, and food security have been exacerbated to such a degree that they have been categorized as societal grand challenges (Ferraro et al. 2015; George et al. 2016). For instance, the Living Planet Report 2016 states that the planet has lost 57% of biodiversity since 1970 and estimates that this figure will reach 68% by 2020 (WWF 2016). Because of the limited progress achieved by conventional approaches and technological strategies, managing socio-ecological systems in a holistic way becomes a priority to solve sustainability-related challenges.

Given this scenario, NBS have been proposed by practitioners, policymakers, and scholars in the belief that natural ecosystems not only serve the planet’s vital purposes but can also generate economic and social value if they are used sustainably and respectfully. Nature has been found to play a key role in reducing the risk of natural hazards, for example, mangrove forests along the coastline have been found to protect rice crops recover from salt intrusion after coastal storms and coastal ecosystems reduce physical exposure to hurricanes, etc. (Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016).

Understanding how nature functions can evoke new ideas and inspire viable solutions that rely on the properties of natural ecosystems in addition to services and processes to develop strategies and actions that integrate people and the planet and that enhance the natural capital while at the same time improving our quality of life (Mathews 2011). Indeed, a number of inventions have emanated from the observation of the natural environment, for example, pollination in agriculture, biofiltration processes to purify air and water, or replicated ecosystems that function as a natural carbon sink (absorption of Co2 emissions). The main premise of the NBS approach is that economies and societies can gain valuable insight from the principles of ecosystems to tackle sustainability-related grand challenges. Nature forms the basis for developing and implementing solutions. Therefore, working with nature, rather than against it or taking advantage of it, has been considered as the means toward a more resource-efficient, less-polluting, and competitive economy. Nature is regarded as the key for achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) (UN 2018). Thus, sustaining and protecting the natural capital is of crucial importance (EC 2015).

The UN SDG number 17 specifically addresses the creation and maintenance of partnerships and collaborative governance to achieve such sustainability goals (UN 2018). Given the scope and complexity of some NBS, the interaction of multiple stakeholder groups is required (Faivre et al. 2017; Gallo et al. 2018; Wood et al. 2018). To carry this out in an effective way, it is vital that institutions at different levels, such as governments, NGOs, research centers, local communities, and private initiatives, create partnerships to collaborate (Vasseur et al. 2017). The various members of the partnerships are expected to play different roles at every stage of NBS implementation, from planning to the development of solutions and the collection of resulting data (UN 2018). For example, partnerships and collaborations between a range of multi-sector organizations and individuals have been found to be the key for NBS approaches in coastal zones (Kelly et al. 2012), oceans management (Aburto et al. 2012), fisheries (Fulton et al. 2014), tourism in protected areas (Eagles 1999), natural capital protection (Santiago-Fink 2016), or climate change adaptation (Mercer et al. 2012).

The Development and Evolution of NBS as a Concept

Although the role that nature plays in supporting human well-being is a central belief for many people (e.g., indigenous populations), it was not until the 1970s that it began to be recognized in the scientific literature. By the 1990s it was evident that a more systematic approach was needed to document and understand the relationship between nature and people (Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016).

However, the concept of NBS, as introduced by practitioners, did not emerge until the late 2000s. The term implied a shift in perspective where people were not only regarded as passive beneficiaries of nature’s services but also as proactive protectors of the natural environment. Specifically, it was first introduced by the World Bank (World Bank 2008) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in a position paper for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (IUCN 2009). Their concept of NBS was used in the context of finding solutions to mitigate climate change effects, while conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods. Later, they extended the concept to other contexts, by defining NBS as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that addresses societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.”

Thereafter, the term was also adopted by policymakers in Europe, in particular the European Commission (EC), which referred to NBS as the means to create innovation opportunities to green the European economies and contribute to create jobs and growth. Specifically, the EC defined NBS as “actions inspired by, supported by or copied from nature; both using and enhancing existing solutions to challenges, as well as exploring more novel solutions… that aim to help societies address a variety of environmental, social and economic challenges in sustainable ways” (EC 2015: 24).

While broadly similar, the definitions provided by the IUCN and the EC illustrate how the NBS term has been conceptualized and used in slightly different ways by different stakeholders. For instance, IUCN’s (2012) framing places human communities and biodiversity at the heart of the concept of NBS, while the definition of the EC is somewhat broader because it adds economics to the equation (Eggermont et al. 2015). In addition, the EC’s definition puts more stress on applying solutions that not only use nature but are also inspired and supported by nature. This last perspective addresses NBS as a way for societies to meet the triple bottom line (social, environmental, and economic objectives) has become widespread in recent years, gaining predominance in both the practice and academic arenas.

Therefore, the evolution and development of the concept of NBS have mainly come from the side of practitioners and policymakers. With some exceptions (e.g., Mackinnon and Hickey 2009), the term has not been broadly used in the academic literature until recently (e.g., Eggermont et al. 2015; Kabish et al. 2016; Maes and Jacobs 2015; Nesshöver et al. 2017).

NBS Principles

As a result of a consultation of practitioners and researchers and with the aim of clarifying the intrinsic characteristics of NBS, the IUCN developed a set of principles. Specifically, they proposed eight principles that are the cornerstones of NBS (Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016: 7):
  1. 1.

    NBS embrace nature conservation norms (and principles).

  2. 2.

    NBS can be implemented alone or in an integrated manner with other solutions to meet societal challenges (e.g., technological and engineering solutions).

  3. 3.

    NBS are determined by site-specific natural and cultural contexts that include traditional, local, and scientific knowledge.

  4. 4.

    NBS produce societal benefits in a fair and equitable way, in a manner that promotes transparency and broad participation.

  5. 5.

    NBS maintain biological and cultural diversity and the ability of ecosystems to evolve over time.

  6. 6.

    NBS are applied at a landscape scale.

  7. 7.

    NBS recognize and address the trade-offs between the production of a few immediate economic benefits for development and future options for the production of the full range of ecosystems services.

  8. 8.

    NBS are an integral part of the overall design of policies and measures or actions, to address a specific challenge.


NBS and Related Concepts

The understanding of NBS as a way to solve environmental, social, and economic problems overlaps and strongly links with other concepts that deal with natural resources and ecosystem management for sustainability and human well-being. In this regard, a recent report from the Horizon 2020 outlining the European innovation policy agenda states that the concept of NBS “builds on and supports other closely related concepts, such as the ecosystem approach, ecosystem services, ecosystem-based adaptation/mitigation, and green and blue infrastructure” (EC 2015: 24).

The similarities and differences between NBS and the aforementioned strongly related concepts have been addressed in a recent review (see Nesshöver et al. 2017). The main conclusion is that all these concepts acknowledge the relevance of nature and the need for understanding the functioning of ecosystems, including human actions and their consequences, to guarantee sustainable growth. The term NBS, however, presents two distinctive premises: (1) some societal challenges are the result of human activities that have overlooked ecological limitations; and (2) looking to nature for design and process knowledge can offer sustainable alternatives to those activities (EC 2015). Thus, NBS respond to a duality of objectives: the application of knowledge about nature to provide positive responses to societal challenges, but also to maintain and enhance the natural capital and ecosystems. Contrariwise, the related concepts (e.g., ecosystem services, green infrastructure, ecological engineering) are mainly based on the notion that ecosystem services should be managed and valued in terms of immediate benefits to human well-being and the economy and not to the environment itself (Eggermont et al. 2015). Despite such conceptual differences, related concepts might inform and assist in the understanding of the opportunities and challenges for NBS (Nesshöver et al. 2017).

Other scholars that have compared NBS with related concepts have concluded that NBS might serve as an umbrella term (e.g., Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016; van den Bosh and Sang 2017; Postchin et al. 2015). For example, according to van den Bosch and Sang (2017), NBS encompasses green infrastructure, ecosystem-based adaptation, and ecosystem services. The IUCN also provides a more detailed explanation of the concepts that fall under the NBS umbrella as displayed in Table 1 (see Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016: 10). Finally, Potshin et al. (2015) also propose that other concepts that connect nature and innovation fall within the NBS umbrella, concepts such as “natural solutions” (e.g., Dudey et al. 2010), “ecosystem-based innovations” (Potschin et al. 2015), “biomimicry” (e.g., Mathews 2011), and “biomimetics (e.g., Neves and Francke 2012), as long as the two distinctive characteristics mentioned above are met.
Table 1

IUCNs framework of NBS as an umbrella concept: approaches covered

Category of NBS approaches


Ecosystem restoration approaches

Ecological restoration

Ecological engineering

Forest landscape restoration

Issue-specific ecosystem-related approaches

Ecosystem-based adaptation

Ecosystem-based mitigation

Climate adaptation services

Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction

Infrastructure-related approaches

Natural infrastructure

Green infrastructure

Ecosystem-based management approaches

Integrated coastal zone management

Integrated water resources management

Ecosystem protection approaches

Area-based conservation approaches including protected area management

Table extracted from Cohen-Shacham et al. (2016: 10)

NBS Classification

NBS is one of the most comprehensive approaches to address different environmental, social, and economic issues. They can take a wide variety of forms and are suitable for very different contexts. Given their broad extent of application, Raymond et al. (2017) classify NBS according to their scope and scale: macro, meso, and micro. The macroscale corresponds to the global/international level – i.e., the creation of a protected natural ecosystem which is shared by several countries. The mesoscale can be associated to NBS implemented at a regional/metropolitan scales – i.e., recovering regional wetlands. Finally, the microscale represents NBS that are developed and implemented in specific neighborhoods/streets/buildings – i.e., implementing a green roof in a building. Such scope-based classification is useful to discern which organisms and institutions should be involved in the development of NBS initiatives at different levels.

Another well-established typology of NBS is the one proposed by Eggermont et al. (2015) that has been followed by other authors (e.g., Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016). This classification categorizes NBS in three different types: Type 1, the “use of natural ecosystems”; Type 2, “managed or restored ecosystems”; and Type 3, the “creation of new ecosystems.” This categorization of NBS is based on two main criteria: (1) the degree of ecosystem engineering required by the NBS intervention and (2) the number of stakeholder groups and ecosystem services targeted by the NBS.

Type 1: Use of existing natural ecosystems. NBS falling under the first type aim to minimize or avoid intervention in natural ecosystems to solve societal challenges. This type of NBS can be implemented in the natural environment at a macro- or mesoscale and would include actions such as establishing protected areas. Partnerships for implementing such NBS might need to include supranational organisms and international NGOs as well as research centers. Generally, they are long-term solutions because natural processes are slow and only solve some challenges. However, the costs of such NBS may be lower compared to other solutions.

Type 2: Managed or restored natural ecosystems. The second type of NBS corresponds to a more intrusive action, such as renovating and/or managing extant ecosystems. Type 2 solutions may take place in extant ecosystems that are suffering a certain level of degradation such as forests, coastlines and wetlands, riverbanks, and agricultural landscapes. Hence, Type 2 solutions can be mainly developed at a mesoscale. NBS for restored ecosystems are an effective means to improve their resilience to natural hazards.

Type 3: Creation of new natural ecosystems. The third type of NBS is characterized by a high level of modification or intervention in extant natural ecosystems, which might even involve creating new ones. Type 3 solutions can be linked to objectives such as the restoration of heavily degraded or polluted areas. Given the effort that such ecosystem creation/modification processes may require, Type 3 NBS are mostly implemented at a micro- or mesoscale. Most interventions in urban areas such as the greening of building roofs, creating urban gardens, and planting more trees fall under this type of NBS. Hence, Type 3 solutions tend to combine natural (green) and technological (gray) infrastructures. Partnerships that put such NBS into practice may need to include local authorities, companies, NGOs, and community representatives.

It is noteworthy to note that this classification does not consider NBS as clear-cut types. For example, rebuilding land that has been previously used for intensive agriculture can be considered a Type 2 NBS (since it implies ecosystem restoration), but allowing the land to recover without human intervention might be connected with Type 1 solutions.

NBS to Address Global Societal Challenges

Given their abovementioned potential and broad extent of application, NBS have been proposed as a key approach for addressing major societal challenges and the transition to sustainable development (Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016). For example, the European Commission has acknowledged the potential of NBS for improving urban design, restoration of ecosystems, climate change mitigation, and risk management and resilience, mainly in the context of cities or urban settings.

Other authors, such as Cohen-Shacham et al. (2016), state that NBS offer more ample opportunities and propose a broader context of application: urban, rural, and natural. More specifically, these authors posit that NBS could be used to attain most of the global sustainable development goals acknowledged by the UN such as water and food security, climate change, human health, natural disaster risk reduction, and socioeconomic development. Given the interconnected nature of many of these goals, the successful implementation of NBS in one context might contribute to address additional goals (Raymond et al. 2017). For instance, restoring a natural ecosystem such as a forest might contribute to ameliorating climate change while at the same time contributing to an improvement in human health. The following sections describe how NBS can contribute to attaining different global societal challenges.

Water Security

One of the main challenges for sustainable development is securing water access for the population. This is outlined in the sustainability development goal (SDG) number 6 of the United Nations: “Clean Water and Sanitation.” Human water demand is increasing for both direct and indirect (e.g., manufacturing processes) consumption, whereas the extant offer is decreasing because of pollution. What is worse, it is expected that climate change effects, such as extreme environmental events (e.g., severe droughts and intense precipitations), place even more stress on current water needs around the globe (UN 2018). NBS are considered as an adequate means to solve most of the problems related to water security. Specifically, NBS are able to enhance water availability, improve water quality, and reduce risks associated with water-related disasters such as climate change (WWAP 2018).

First, increasing the water offer requires improving water retention. This might be achieved, for example, by the creation of green infrastructures with trees and plants at microlevel. Green infrastructures improve water availability by storing rainwater and limiting evaporation. They can also act as a natural barrier to inhibit water overflow in urban settings (Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016). Second, filtering water that has been previously collected from rainfall or after human use is the best way to improve its quality. Examples of nature-based filters include plants, trees, or soil elements (WWAP 2018). Third, regarding water-related risks, it is important to consider two types of natural hazards: floods and droughts. The impact of floods can be softened by applying NBS to restore those environments that traditionally have acted as barriers, such as riverbanks (Keesstra et al. 2018). The effects of droughts can be attenuated if natural groundwater storage systems are recovered and properly managed (Geneletti et al. 2016).

Considering all the evidence, NBS for water security can be applied on very different scales. For example, creating a green zone in a neighborhood would improve water overflow at a microlevel, whereas restoring a wetland may improve water filtering at meso-level. In addition, Type 1 NBS, using natural ecosystem without intervention, may be sufficient for certain areas, while other locations will certainly need to combine them with Type 3 NBS such as built green infrastructures (Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016). For instance, urban settings that have traditionally suffered from water stress because they lack the required natural ecosystem infrastructure require intervention or creation of new natural ecosystems. Current attempts to improve water security require the implication of partnerships between research centers, which provide data-driven evidence on the best ways to implement NBS, and NGOs, which work for advancing the possibilities of NBS development in different settings (Steiner 2017).

Food Security

Food security can be directly linked to SDG 2: “Zero hunger.” Improving food security has been traditionally perceived as highly dependent on technological solutions. However recent studies suggest the potential of natural solutions (Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016). Indeed, NBS have been shown to be an adequate way to ensure food security in both the agriculture and fisheries fields.

Important NBS in this field have been developed in the agricultural sector (Keesstra et al. 2018). Regarding land management initiatives, one of the main objectives is preserving soil from degradation as a result of erosion (Keesstra et al. 2018). NBS can help to prevent soil erosion creating covering layers and inhibiting overland water flow (e.g., creating better soil structure that promotes filtration capacity) or increasing surface roughness (e.g., using vegetation or soil bunds). However, other widely implemented NBS for agriculture are natural pollination (e.g., use of bees), biological defense (e.g., use of natural predators of plagues), and the adoption of green manure as fertilizer (Naumann et al. 2014). In some cases, it is necessary to restore land before giving it a new agricultural or farming use. Given the variety of land types and climate conditions, NBS need to be carefully adapted to the local context wherever they are implemented (Keesstra et al. 2018).

In addition, NBS can be used to obtain a more sustainable management of fisheries and farms (e.g., selecting species that can better adapt to the natural ecosystem and may help to create symbiotic relationships) (Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016). In fact, one of the main objectives of SDG 14 “Life below water” is to promote sustainable fisheries (Covert 2017). To aid such objectives, NBS can be implemented at both micro- and mesoscales and would fall under Type 2 NBS, since a certain level of transformation of the natural environment is required. Finally, food security can co-benefit from the implementation of NBS in order to pursue other sustainable development goals such as water security, risk management, and/or climate change adaptation and mitigation. For example, there is a partnership between the European Union and the UNDP, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and local communities, to restore farmlands in Azerbaijan (Scholz 2017). This program allows for eroded land to be recovered so that traditional farming can be developed in a sustainable way and with long-term focus.

Human Health

SDG number 3 “Good health” can be linked to this global challenge. The natural environment has been recognized as an important determinant of human well-being both in psychological and physical terms (Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016). Since the majority of the population nowadays lives in urban settings, a trend that is expected to intensify in the coming years, NBS need to be implemented in cities across the globe both at a micro- and mesoscale.

In urban settings, successful NBS can include the provision of more green spaces for local inhabitants (Santiago-Fink 2016). Such natural spaces offer opportunities for exercising, thus improving physical health benefits such as obesity reduction, fewer headaches, and increased tolerance to pain (Xing et al. 2017). In addition, parks and green zones are able to attract more visitors and thus help to create places where local habitants can meet and develop community ties. This is a useful way to improve psychological health by, among others, reducing the incidence of depression (EC 2015). Furthermore, NBS can improve air quality by filtering CO2 and thus reducing the incidence of illness related to air quality. However, green zones can increase the incidence of allergies among the population (Raymond et al. 2017). The growth of green zones in urban environments is also a useful way to fight against the urban heat island phenomenon (Santiago-Fink 2016). That is, cities exhibit higher recorded temperatures compared to more natural settings. Vegetation, especially trees, is able to soften the impact of heat waves in the city. This is of benefit to its inhabitants, especially those who are more vulnerable to heat strokes, such as the elderly or children (Xing et al. 2017). Such actions to “green” urban areas can be considered as Type 2 or 3 NBS, depending on whether the green zone is being restored or created from the scratch. Partnerships such as the Urban Tree Canopy combine the knowledge of different governmental institutions, research centers, and NGOs to assist local municipalities that aim to analyze and improve their NBS offering (Santiago-Fink 2016).

Finally, human well-being can benefit from the adoption of NBS in contexts such as water and food security, risk mitigation, and climate change adaptation.

Risk Management and Resilience

The implementation of NBS offers major opportunities to reduce the likelihood and/or the intensity of different types of natural hazards. Examples of natural hazards that can be softened by NBS are those typically related to climate change (SDG number 13) effects such as flooding or droughts. In addition, NBS may also be a helpful means to protect natural ecosystems and urban areas from the impact of other natural hazards such as hurricanes (Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016), tsunamis, or avalanches (Naumann et al. 2014). Along these lines, natural ecosystems such as wetlands, forests, and coastal systems can reduce physical exposure to natural hazards by serving as protective barriers or buffers (Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016). The three types of NBS can be implemented to increase natural hazard resilience at different levels: from planting more vegetation to inhibiting water overflow in a street, to restoring wetlands to improve water filtering, and to protecting natural forests by creating nature parks. An example of a partnership working to achieving such goals is the one developed under the Ocean Conference framework by The Nature Conservancy and the Red Cross. These NGOs support local communities in places like Grenada, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic by helping them to adopt and improve extant NBS such as reefs and mangroves. This initiative helps to soften the risk of and resilience against natural events. In addition, it is carried out in collaboration with Swiss Re, a private reassurance company, as they utilize their expertise to explore nature-based insurance products, which are able to protect and finance the required adaptation of ecosystems (Ocean Conference UN 2018). By implementing NBS to improve risk management and resilience, sustainable development goals such as human health, water security, climate change adaptation, and mitigation can be also met (Raymond et al. 2017).

Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

SDG number 13 states, “Take urgent action to fight climate change and its impacts,” and NBS can be considered as a powerful means to fight climate change, which is one of the most pressing environmental problems. Nowadays there are two main strategies related to the fight for climate change: climate change mitigation and adaptation. The former consists of reducing the environmental impact of human activities in order to stop the global temperature rising and prevent climate change. The latter aims to soften the impact of climate change-related events that are already taking place.

NBS can help climate change mitigation by preventing the degradation and loss of natural ecosystems. For example, deforestation is considered a major contributor to climate change, because of the greenhouse gases released from plants and soil (Naumann et al. 2014). Type 1 meso and macro NBS can be implemented to protect extant ecosystems and protect them from degradation. Augmenting the number of trees and plants in urban settings is a useful means to increase carbon sequestration and thus fight climate change. These solutions are implemented at a micro- and mesoscale and correspond to Types 2 or 3. On the other hand, NBS aimed at improving biodiversity (e.g., restoring damaged ecosystems) are a helpful means of ameliorating the adverse effects of climate change since it has been demonstrated that restored ecosystems can act as natural barriers and limit the impact of climate change-related disasters (Cohen-Shacham et al. 2016). An adequate protection and management of ecosystems can also help vulnerable communities to become more resilient to the adverse effects of climate change (Geneletti et al. 2016). Regarding the scope of NBS for climate change, micro and meso solutions tend to be preferred for adaptation strategies, while NBS for climate change mitigation are planned at a macro level (Raymond et al. 2017). In this line, both adaptation and mitigation effects of NBS go hand in hand (Naumann et al. 2014). That is, interventions in natural ecosystems that pursue adaptation goals are able to further influence climate change mitigation goals and vice versa. For example, an adaption strategy such as restoring wetlands may minimize flooding effects that in addition will certainly help to increase carbon sequestration, which is considered a mitigation strategy. Thus, NBS are expected to exert a greater overall effect on the fight against climate change (Raymond et al. 2017).

Giving their particular vulnerability to its effects, fighting against climate change is one of the main challenges of Small Island Developing States (SIDs). Hence, these have developed several partnerships focused on topics such as climate change information knowledge management (Mackay et al. 2018) or the Blue Guardians project, which aims to tailor nature-based adaptation strategies to different settings (Ocean Conference UN 2018).

Economic and Social Development

It is accepted that NBS may, in many cases, present more efficient and cost-effective solutions than technological approaches (EC 2015). Their relative lower cost combined with the potential benefits of NBS to attain different sustainability goals means that they are preferred compared to technological solutions. Such a preference may generate a greater demand for NBS, with a greater number of cities, countries, and organizations investing in them. This augmented demand will be paired with a subsequent increase in the number of companies that are able to offer NBS. Given the broad range of different NBS, it seems likely that organizations will become specialized (e.g., companies specialized in green building vs. those specialized in land restoration or companies specialized in micro NBS vs. companies specialized in meso NBS).

In addition, once NBS are successfully implemented and ecosystems are restored, several economic opportunities may arise. On the one hand, it is possible that traditional economic activities such as sustainable fishing, farming, or agriculture will be recovered. On the other hand, new economic activities, such ecotourism, can be developed. In fact, several partnerships for SDGs under the Ocean Conference framework are developing guidelines for improving nature-based tourism activities, such as excursions. In these partnerships governmental institutions such as the Ministries of Agriculture or Economy of affected places work together with NGOs (Ocean Conference UN 2018). It is expected that these economic opportunities will be mainly exploited at a local level (Naumann et al. 2014). In this way, NBS can be a source of social development for the area in which they are implemented.

However, not all the opinions about NBS share such a positive view about their economic impact. Given that the benefits provided by NBS are complex and long term, there is an added difficulty to understanding and valuing them (Naumann et al. 2014; Raymond et al. 2017). Hence, there is risk that technological activities, which are able to bring shorter-term benefits, are put forward instead of NBS.


NBS have been considered optimal solutions for directly or indirectly alleviating critical sustainability-related global challenges, such as those recognized in the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDG). Along these lines, the UN SDG number 17 addresses the role of partnerships and collaborative governance to achieve such sustainability goals. Given the scope and complexity of some NBS, involving multiple stakeholder groups, their ability to operate at different levels becomes critical for reaching optimal solutions. This entry demonstrates how NBS can alleviate some specific sustainability global challenges, focusing on the role played by partnerships in such processes. Heterogeneous partnership participants possess different skills and play unique roles, which are required to obtain a common goal. Governmental institutions at both international and national level need to provide the funding and implementation framework. Research centers, such as universities, need to develop research on NBS, identifying the best ways to implement them and innovative solutions. Given the reliance on financial outcomes, research on the economic impact of NBS is also required. Companies are also needed to find effective solutions and integrate NBS into their structures. NGOs are needed to create awareness, advance the commitment to NBS, and work with local communities for their implementation. Local communities play a key role to assure the long-term project sustainability, once the initial funding from institutions is retired. However, when organizing partnerships for NBS, adequate implementation may require sophisticated structures to ensure roles are well established and communication flows are constant.




We would like to acknowledge the financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Competition, the Agencia Nacional de Investigación (AEI), and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF/FEDER, UE) (R&D Project ECO2015-66504).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and Business AdministrationUniversity of AlmeriaAlmeriaSpain

Section editors and affiliations

  • Monica Thiel
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Public Administration and School of Business AdministrationUniversity of International Business and Economics & China University of PetroleumBeijingChina