The superior effect of nature based solutions in land management for enhancing ecosystem services

Saskia Keesstra*, Joao P. Nunes, Agata Novara, David Finger, David Avelar, Zahra Kalantari, Artemi Cerdà

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

215 Citations (Scopus)


The rehabilitation and restoration of land is a key strategy to recover services -goods and resources- ecosystems offer to the humankind. This paper reviews key examples to understand the superior effect of nature based solutions to enhance the sustainabilit y of catchment systems by promoting desirable soil and landscape functions. The use of concepts such as connectivity and the theory of system thinking framework allowed to review coastal and river management as a guide to evaluate other strategies to achieve sustainability. In land management NBSs are not mainstream management. Through a set of case studies: organic farming in Spain; rewilding in Slovenia; land restoration in Iceland, sediment trapping in Ethiopia and wetland construction in Sweden, we show the potential of Nature based solutions (NBSs) as a cost-effective long term solution for hydrological risks and land degradation. NBSs can be divided into two main groups of strategies: soil solutions and landscape solutions. Soil solutions aim to enhance the soil health and soil functions through which local eco-system services will be maintained or restored. Landscape solutions mainly focus on the concept of connectivity. Making the landscape less connected, facilitating less rainfall to be transformed into runoff and therefore reducing flood risk, increasing soil moisture and reducing droughts and soil erosion we can achieve the sustainability. The enhanced eco-system services directly feed into the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)997-1009
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Ecosystem services
  • Nature based solutions
  • SDGs
  • System dynamics

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