Types of Nature-Based Solutions

Nature-based solutions include varied practices that can be applied at many different scales, for example, to an entire watershed or a specific site. The common thread is that nature-based solutions mimic natural processes and offer diverse benefits.

Below, we've organized nature-based solutions into three categories:

Watershed or landscape-scale practices build interconnected systems of natural areas and open space. They require long-term planning and coordination. Examples include land conservation and greenways.

Neighborhood or site-scale practices manage rainwater where it falls to reduce stormwater runoff. They can often be built into a site or neighborhood without much extra space. Examples include permeable pavement and tree trenches.

Coastal practices stabilize the shoreline, reduce erosion and buffer the coast from storm impacts. While many watershed and neighborhood scale practices work in coastal areas, coastal systems are designed to support coastal resilience.

Examples of Nature-Based Solutions

Graphic for Watershed Scale: Stormwater Parks

Stormwater parks are recreational spaces that are designed to flood during extreme events and to withstand flooding.

By storing and treating floodwaters, stormwater parks can reduce flooding elsewhere and improve water quality.

Graphic for Coastal Areas: Oyster Reefs

Oysters are often referred to as “ecosystem engineers” because of their tendency to attach to hard surfaces and create large reefs made of thousands of individuals.

In addition to offering shelter and food to coastal species, oyster reefs buffer coasts from waves and filter surrounding waters.

A drawing of a levee and a setback that is redirecting flood water.

Levees provide a vertical barrier against storm surge or river overtopping. A setback moves the levee away from the river or coast. This provides extra space for flood water.

Setback levees provide extra flood protection and reduce erosion. They also support healthier and more dynamic river and coastal systems.

Graphic for Watershed Scale: Land Conservation

Land conservation is one way of preserving interconnected systems of open space that sustain healthy communities.

Land conservation projects begin by prioritizing areas of land for acquisition. Land or conservation easements can be bought or acquired through donation.

Graphic for Neighborhood or Site Scale: Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting systems collect and store rainfall for later use. They slow runoff and can reduce the demand for potable water.

Rainwater systems include rain barrels that store tens of gallons and rainwater cisterns that store hundreds or thousands of gallons.

 drawing of someone riding a bike through a park or forest setting.

Bike trails and nearby greenspace can absorb the impact from flooding. They also reduce the urban heat island effect.

Bike trails provide recreational opportunities and connect people to nature.

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