Over many years, the Building with Nature (BwN) project has built up a major collection of data, research results and publications on the use of Nature Based Solutions for climate resilience. In some cases, a specific NBS has repeatedly proven its success. But gaining recognition of the evidence base for NBS is still more challenging than for proven concrete structures. We brought two senior scientists together for an informal discussion on what it takes to transition BwN and NBS from the phase of “research project” to “standard practice”.
Building with Nature has given us some insightful lessons. You can find these lessons in the reports now published.
When does Building with Nature (BwN) become the first choice for climate adaptation measures? What are the obstacles to choosing Nature Based Solutions (NBS), as opposed to traditional engineered infrastructure? And what have we learnt until now? During the one-day Road to CAS event in Amsterdam in October, the EcoShape foundation hosted a webinar to address these questions.
For those with an active role in the Interreg NSR Building with Nature project, it may seem obvious: nature based solutions (NBS) of all kinds have already proven to be highly cost-effective and sustainable for some of the toughest flood management challenges facing the countries of the North Sea Region. And what’s more, they generally also deliver extensive co-benefits to both communities and vulnerable ecosystems. Among policymakers and decisionmakers who have experienced it first-hand, Building with Nature (BwN) is rapidly becoming mainstream. However, outside of those regions, communities, and environments where these solutions have been applied, BwN is still often perceived as unfamiliar, experimental, perhaps even financially risky.
The conference 'Be Adaptive to become resilient’ lived up to its title in many ways. Not only because of the content of the conference, but also in the way the conference was held. Due to Corona measures we had to organize an online conference in a short time frame. This turned out to be a great success. Nearly 200 people from the North Sea Region joined us online to bring the discussion about how to adapt to climate change one step further.
It’s one thing to design a Nature Based Solution (NBS), but actually implementing the solution usually calls for an exceptional level of cooperation and understanding across a range of stakeholders – often parties with totally different interests at stake. In the Eddleston Water catchment of the river Tweed, Natural Flood Management (NFM) solutions were proposed to mitigate the risk and severity of flood damage to riverside communities lying between the Eddleston headwaters and the Tweed. But to achieve this benefit downstream, these NFM solutions needed to be implemented up to 20 km upstream – on farmland with dozens of different owners, from owner-occupiers to absentee landlords.
Initially, the online event we organized in June with the projects of FAIR and C5a was intended as an end event for Building with Nature. It became a not-yet-the-end-event after all and the Building with Nature continues project. This because of a prolongation request we filed and which has been approved.
In the Netherlands, large-scale research is accelerating the pace of understanding the interplay of water, waves and wind on the country’s sandy coastline. There is a strong sense of urgency to acquire knowledge about the morphology, hydrology and ecology of the entire coastal foundation, to enable properly informed decision making about defending the coast from sea level rises due to climate change. At the same time, there’s a need to learn quickly what works, what doesn’t work, and what other factors need to be considered.
Man-made barriers to combat coastal erosion have had only limited success, and they are difficult to adapt to the rising sea levels caused by climate change. On the Danish North Sea coast, by working with nature, the last natural barrier – the littoral dune – can now be protected and even strengthened in a measured way.
The obvious solution to a sea defence problem is usually the easiest one to accept, because it’s indeed so obvious. The regional water authority and the provincial government proposed a daring, innovative solution that costs less, is nature-friendly, and potentially brings many additional benefits to the area. Completed in early 2020, the Twin Dyke is a test bed for a Nature Based approach to coastal flood protection.