Nature Based Solutions

Many propose nature-based solutions as an integrative remedy to urban ills. However, evidence shows that they have limitations:

  • climate change adaptation and mitigation effectiveness
  • Baró, Francesc, and Erik Gómez-Baggethun. ‘Assessing the Potential of Regulating Ecosystem Services as Nature-Based Solutions in Urban Areas’. In Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change Adaptation in Urban Areas: Linkages between Science, Policy and Practice, edited by Nadja Kabisch, Horst Korn, Jutta Stadler, and Aletta Bonn, 139–58. Cham: Springer, 2017.
  • worsening of social and environmental injustices through gentrification (Kabisch; Kostila).
  • Kabisch, Nadja, Niki Frantzeskaki, Staphan Pauleit, Sandra Naumann, Davis Davis, Martina Artmann, Dagmar Haase, et al. ‘Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Urban Areas: Perspectives on Indicators, Knowledge Gaps, Barriers, and Opportunities for Action’. Ecology and Society 21, no. 2 (2016).
  • Kotsila, Panagiota, Isabelle Anguelovski, Francesc Baró, Johannes Langemeyer, Filka Sekulova, and James JT Connolly. ‘Nature-Based Solutions as Discursive Tools and Contested Practices in Urban Nature’s Neoliberalisation Processes’. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 4, no. 2 (2021): 252–74.
  • inherent anthropocentrism that prioritises human needs and utilitarian interests over the needs and interests of other species and ecosystems (Eggermont). 1

The assessment of outcomes through the notion of ‘ecosystem services’.

Ecosystem services focus on humans by definition.

  • Costanza, Robert, Rudolf de Groot, Leon Braat, Ida Kubiszewski, Lorenzo Fioramonti, Paul Sutton, Steve Farber, and Monica Grasso. ‘Twenty Years of Ecosystem Services: How Far Have We Come and How Far Do We Still Need to Go?’ Ecosystem Services 28 (2017): 1–16.

Faivre et al. definition states that ‘ecosystem services are the contributions that ecosystems … make to human well-being’.

  • Faivre, Nicolas, Marco Fritz, Tiago Freitas, Birgit de Boissezon, and Sofie Vandewoestijne. ‘Nature-Based Solutions in the EU: Innovating with Nature to Address Social, Economic and Environmental Challenges’. Environmental Research 159 (2017): 509–18.

Some aim to expand this to cover more than the economic benefits of nature (Bush; Kenter; Schröter). However, human needs remain prioritised above those of other forms of life. This literature, Bush, for example, acknowledges the need for new appraoches to include nonhumans. 2

  • Bush, Judy, and Andréanne Doyon. ‘Building Urban Resilience with Nature-Based Solutions: How Can Urban Planning Contribute?’ Cities 95 (2019): 102483.
  • Kenter, Jasper O. ‘IPBES: Don’t Throw Out the Baby Whilst Keeping the Bathwater; Put People’s Values Central, Not Nature’s Contributions’. Ecosystem Services 33 (2018): 40–43.

Three questions for nature-based solutions suggested by Maller:

  • Who and what is already in this place?
  • Who and what else should be in this place?
  • And, who else and what else in this place should benefit from this project?
  • Maller, Cecily. ‘Re-Orienting Nature-Based Solutions with More-Than-Human Thinking’. Cities 113 (2021): 103155.


  1. Schröter, Matthias, Emma H. van der Zanden, Alexander P. E. van Oudenhoven, Roy P. Remme, Hector M. Serna-Chavez, Rudolf S. de Groot, and Paul Opdam. ‘Ecosystem Services as a Contested Concept: A Synthesis of Critique and Counter-Arguments’. Conservation Letters 7, no. 6 (2014): 514–23.˄

  2. Eggermont, Hilde, Estelle Balian, José Manuel N. Azevedo, Victor Beumer, Tomas Brodin, Joachim Claudet, Bruno Fady, et al. ‘Nature-Based Solutions: New Influence for Environmental Management and Research in Europe’. GAIA - Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society 24, no. 4 (2015): 243–48.˄