Assessing Nature-Based Solutions for Transformative Change
MRI News
article written by MRI
20.05.21 | 09:05

A new article published in the journal One Earth finds that Nature-based Solutions can contribute to transformative change towards sustainable trajectories. The article builds upon an MRI-funded Synthesis Workshop.

The global environmental crisis requires transformative approaches to sustainability. A new publication in One Earth assesses Nature-based Solutions’ (NbS) ability to bring about transformative change.

Nature-based Solutions for sustainable transformation

In the article ‘Assessing Nature-Based Solutions for Transformative Change,’ lead author Ignacio Palomo, MRI Co-PI Adrienne Grêt-Regamey, and others evaluated 93 NbS from mountain regions around the world under a transformative change lens. From reducing poaching in Lao to restoring a cloud forest in Mexico, the researchers found that the majority of these NbS have the potential to create transformative change, combining societal values and knowledge, community engagement processes, and ecosystem management practices. 

Developing a framework

“Given the rapid increase in the number of applications of nature-based solutions globally, we developed a project to assess their main characteristics, particularly in relation to transformative change, which we know is ultimately needed to achieve global socio-environmental targets, such as the sustainable development goals,” explains Palomo. “We decided to focus in mountain regions because of their vulnerability to climate change and the multiple and diverse nature-based solutions already implemented within them.”

“[We linked] evidence of transformative change… to values, knowledge, participation, ecosystem management, and sustainable trajectories in social-ecological systems,” adds Palomo. “We built a framework based on previous literature on transformative change, transformative adaptation, and sustainability science. We used an iterative bottom-up and top-down process to fine-tune the framework [….] and developed a classification of NbS to illustrate the framework.”

What makes NbS succesful?

“We found that nature-based solutions are as much ‘nature-based’ as ‘human-based,’ and that successful examples have in common diverse human values about nature and types of knowledge, community participation processes, and management practices such as restoration, ecosystem monitoring, and nature protection,” says Palomo. The researchers found evidence of transformative changes to non-sustainable trajectories of social-ecological systems. They envision that their framework will enable long-term monitoring of NbS and evaluation of transformative change processes in practice: “As we move towards sustainability, we will need frameworks and indicators to assess transformative change. Here, we contribute one more step towards that goal in relation to nature-based solutions.”  


NbS graphic abstract

Graphical abstract of ‘Assessing Nature-Based Solutions for Transformative Change.’ “First, the ‘Three Spheres of Transformation’ framework describes the dimensions of personal (with elements including knowledge, values, and worldviews), political (rules, economic and legal instruments, governance), and practical (behaviors, management, and technical responses) in which a transformation process is based…Second, the six indicators of transformative adaptation (restructuring, path-shifting, multi-scale, innovative, system-wide, and persistent) help to assess whether profound and fundamental alterations have occurred in SES [social-ecological systems] using a before-and-after analysis. Third, the IPBES  [Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services] framework’s elements of biodiversity, nature’s contributions to people, and good quality of life can help evaluate outcomes of NbS for nature and people.  Combining these three frameworks, our approach allows to assess transformative change as a process, including NbS elements, how transformative change has occurred within a SES, and its main outcomes.”

Palomo and others developed their framework through an MRI-funded Synthesis Workshop. View the 2021 call for Synthesis Workshops here. The deadline to apply is 31 May.  

Ignacio Palomo will present this research in an MRI Anniversary Lecture on 23 June. Find more information about the lecture here

More information

Palomo, I., Locatelli, B., Otero, I., Colloff, M., Crouzat, E., Cuni-Sanchez, A., Gómez-Baggethun, E., González-García, A., Grêt-Regamey, A., Jiménez-Aceituno, A., Martín-López, B., Pascual, U., Zafra-Calvo, N., Bruley, E., Fischborn, M., Metz, R., & Lavorel, S. (2021). Assessing nature-based solutions for transformative change. One Earth4, 1–12.

This article’s sources include a media release on the Basque Centre for Climate Change website and Ignacio Palomo’s Twitter

Cover image by AdrienBe.