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Nature-based solutions (NbS) harness the power of nature to boost natural ecosystems, biodiversity, and human well-being to address major societal issues, including climate change. The range of NbS includes land conservation, water conservation, greenways and habitat corridors, wetland restoration and protection, stormwater management, rainwater management, and many other activities. This sure sounds like what The Conservation Foundation (TCF) does. Let’s discuss NbS and how TCF provides these solutions every day.
NbS has been defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “actions to address societal challenges through the protection, sustainable management and restoration of ecosystems, benefiting both biodiversity and human well-being.” They use the power of nature and functioning ecosystems as infrastructure to provide natural services to benefit society and the environment.
According to The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Nature-based Solutions are sustainable planning, design, environmental management, and engineering practices that weave natural features or processes into the built environment to promote adaptation and resilience.
These solutions cover a broad range of actions to protect, restore, or sustainably manage landscapes, seascapes, watersheds, and urban areas so they can tackle challenges such as food and water security, climate change, disaster risks, and human health.
NbS can provide a myriad of environmental, societal, and economic benefits:
- Adaption to climate change
- Health benefits
- Healthy and accessible food
- Clean air and water
- Risk reduction from disasters like flooding
- Ecosystem integrity
- Biodiversity net gain
- Protection of shorelines and coastal property
- Restoration and protection of wetlands
- Reduction of urban heat
- Addition of recreational space
- Increased property values
- Green jobs
And they often come at a lower cost than traditional infrastructure.
Examples include restoring wetlands to buffer local communities from flood waters, or conserving mangrove forests that provide nurseries for fish and protect nearby homes against storm damage. From protecting salt marshes to restoring forest habitats, Nature-based Solutions are already in operation across the world.
At the neighborhood or individual scale, activities can be rain gardens, green roofs, rainwater harvesting, and planting trees. Along with being impactful, they can be very aesthetically pleasing.
Now it can be challenging to decide how to get involved with NbS, but TCF can help.
Almost everything TCF does falls under NbS. We perform land conservation, water conservation, sustainable farming, and so much more. Our entire Conservation@Home (C@H) program is the best example. It addresses biodiversity, stormwater, water quality and water conservation, habitat and pollinators, as well as connecting people to nature right in their yards.
C@H is the ultimate everyone-can-do-something program! It starts with you making some earth-conscious choices in your home landscape design. Replace some turf grass with beautiful and drought-resistant native plants, maybe install a rain barrel or two and reduce or eliminate your chemical use. We’d be happy to offer some advice along the way, free of charge.
Now you have an attractive and functional yard that conserves water and provides habitat for birds, butterflies, and other beneficial wildlife. You deserve some recognition for your efforts! We’ll certify your yard as an environmentally-friendly landscape through our C@H program and give you a sign to post proudly. Then your neighbors get curious and want to know how they can get a sign like that. Before you know it, yard by yard, you’ve brought more nature to your neighborhood. And you cannot beat the convenience of having nature in your own yard. And it is good for your mental health. According to one study, for every 1% increase in the proportion of useable or total green space near to the home there is a 4% reduction in the number of anxiety/mood disorder treatment cases.
Ready to fight for conservation and perform NbS actions? Well, that is what The Conservation Foundation does every day. We can all do more together than we can alone. Join our collective momentum – become a member today!
Contact us if you’d like to learn more about our Conservation@Home program. It’s easy to get started.
Feel free to comment on this blog with your ideas on Nature-based Solutions.
By Steve Stawarz, Oak Brook
DuPage County Advisory Council Member