Working with practitioners to better understand marine and coastal Nature-based Solutions

People have long benefitted from marine and coastal ecosystems. But despite this many marine and coastal ecosystems are degrading or disappearing from many places around the world. Nature-based Solutions (NBS) aim to provide societal and ecological benefits by recognising the vital role of nature to help address societal challenges, including biodiversity loss and climate change. But their use in marine and coastal ecosystem management has had little uptake so far. We wondered why and what MaCoBioS could do to help.

We brought together twenty-six marine practitioners and researchers representing conservation, scientific, government, and non-governmental organisations from Northern Europe (UK, Ireland and Norway) to help us try to answer this. Our interactive two-day workshop on “Marine and coastal Nature-based Solutions: from concept to practice” was held across the 1st and 2nd March 2023. Our aim was to explore the challenges hindering marine and coastal NBS uptake and consider how we could address some of these. During the first day we focused on identifying and exploring challenges and actionable steps, while on the second day we drilled down into three research priority areas being addressed by MaCoBioS and how these could be used in practice.

Our group identified a diverse range of perceived challenges to NBS implementation, spanning the need for a better understanding of the concept, through capacity and resource limitations, to the need for greater information provision and understanding on effectiveness and best practice. However, they felt that the key challenges for implementing marine and coastal NBS were the availability of suitable funding mechanisms, the presence of appropriate policy drivers and regulatory frameworks, and stakeholder awareness, values, perceptions and engagement. During discussions participants stressed the interrelated nature of challenges and solutions, and highlighted that the lack of clarity of the definition and criteria for NBS affected all key challenges. To effectively implement marine and coastal NBS, participants emphasised that interventions need to develop ways to access innovative blended financing, better integrate local communities and invested stakeholders, and make more effective use of social science. To do so, NBS projects need to use standards, take a long-term approach, and engage clear, targeted and tailored messaging through effective communication pathways.

Conversations about challenges and solutions were continued on the second day of our workshop, focusing on how to locate marine and coastal NBS interventions and evaluate their social-economic effectiveness. Discussions ranged across existing approaches used by practitioners to identify cumulative risks and where to implement NBS, and then drilled down into social-economic indicators that could be used to choose which interventions should be placed where and to evaluate effectiveness. Participants recognised that measures of social-economic required context-specific information to make them meaningful, however, the greatest challenge was linking changes in measures with an NBS. Involvement of local stakeholders was thought to be key to help overcome this.

We had a great couple of days with all those who joined us and would like to thank all those that contributed to our workshop by sharing their knowledge, experiences and ideas.

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