The world is currently facing a biodiversity and climate crisis which are globally interlinked. Nature-based solutions (NBS), defined as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural and modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously benefiting people and
nature” is part of the solution to these challenges. Here we give a status overview of nature-based solutions in the Nordic countries, obtained within the S-ITUATION project1 focusing on 1) what is the current status of research on NBS in the Nordic countries? 2) what policy framework(s) exist for NBS in the Nordic countries? 3) what challenges do Nordic countries experience in the process of mainstreaming NBS? 4) what key examples of projects implementing NBS exist in the Nordic countries? We have done this using several approaches: 1) a review of the academic
literature, providing insights on the status of research on NBS in the Nordic countries; 2) a grey literature review in each Nordic country, to describe the policy framework for NBS and practical implementation of NBS projects across the Nordic countries; 3) compilation of a Nordic NBS case projects catalogue, which contains implemented case projects from each Nordic country, using NBS in all major ecosystems: terrestrial (forests and agricultural land), freshwater, coastal and marine, to show the breadth of NBS used in the Nordic countries, 4) Nordic NBS
Research on NBS across the Nordics includes several research initiatives. Currently the most central research initiatives are the Nordic Council of Ministers programme on NBS, which is a focused four-year programme. Many Nordic universities and research institutes are also involved in different research projects focusing on or including NBS and there is an exponential interest from researchers in this area. Most of these research projects are targeting NBS in urban areas. In a structured
peer-review of scientific publications using the term ‘nature-based solutions’, 64 research papers were found related to the Nordic countries. These studies varied from large-scale ecosystem-based approaches to small-scale NBS. Most of the studies assessed the NBS functions in relation to biophysical qualities, such as water retention capacity, flood risk reduction, health benefits and biodiversity contribution, but there were also studies focusing on potential economic benefits from NBS.
Regarding policy frameworks it is evident that these are at different stages of development when it comes to mainstreaming the concept of NBS into policy across the Nordics. Norway and Sweden have adopted the term to a larger degree than
Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Still, all five countries conserve, restore and work actively on developing sustainable use of nature, but use other terms (e.g., ‘bluegreen infrastructures or solutions’, ‘restoration’, or ‘ecosystem services’) in their policies and guidelines.
NBS governance and implementation is an area that is currently advancing rapidly. At the same time, there are still several challenges as well as also opportunities for using NBS to mitigate and adapt to climate change, protect biodiversity and ensure human well-being. Regarding challenges and gaps, we divide these into 1) natural scientific and technical knowledge gaps, 2) economic shortcomings, 3) regulatory, governance, and policy challenges, and 4) weak stakeholder collaboration. In the
project we have identified 54 key examples of projects implementing NBS in the Nordic countries. Most of these cases were related to freshwater, followed by urban/ artificial NBS. The number of implemented NBS projects has increased, especially in
the last couple of years. Our key messages and recommendations for future mainstreaming of NBS are: 1) clear political prioritization is needed to mainstream NBS into policy and practice, 2) appropriate institutional structures, procedures and policy instruments at all governance levels are essential to facilitate the implementation of NBS, 3) better funding structures for NBS are needed, 4) we need to develop common standards, long-term monitoring and better cost-benefit evaluations of NBS, and 5) the knowledge base in all phases of NBS projects needs to be strengthened.