This article was originally published on Landscape News. 


“Our planet needs solutions to halt the decline of biodiversity, pollution of waterways, and to meet the nutrition, education and energy needs of a growing population. Such a call to action is at the heart of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a globally agreed set of 17 goals to guide the international community towards a more just, equitable, healthier, and greener future.

But how do we get there?

We are writing to share a new paper on how ecosystem services — the benefits people receive from nature (think flood protection, carbon sequestration, soil formation or food production) — can contribute to overcoming the sustainable development challenge. While much of human development to date has caused significant degradation to the natural world, in the 21st century we must find development approaches that also support and protect the environment. Nature-based solutions, i.e. interventions which actively manage ecosystems to provide services that benefit people, will become increasingly important to achieve this goal.

We asked over 200 ecosystem and development experts to complete a survey on the capacity and importance of 16 ecosystem services to help reach the SDGs to start building a road map to our 2030 targets. Much like the new paper by Bronson Griscom and others titled “Natural Climate Solutions” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) which quantifies the contribution that nature-based solutions can make to meeting CO2 emission goals, our survey found that there are many pathways through which nature and the functions that it carries out can help us to achieve our development targets, providing a roadmap complete with avenues, highways and junctions, to guide researchers and practitioners in the search for nature-based solutions to achieving the SDGs.

We found that:

  • 44 targets underlying the 17 SDG goals focus directly on improving the environment and/or dimensions of human well-being (e.g., health, poverty, nutrition, spirituality) related to the environment. These are key points of entry for nature-based solutions.
  • Comparing responses across surveyed experts, we identify a high level of agreement for 178 pathways where ecosystem services could make important contributions to SDG targets. These are avenues where nature-based solutions should be considered amongst the possible interventions during the planning process.
  • In many cases, multiple ecosystem services were thought to contribute to achieving a single SDG target. This means that some targets may be junctions where multiple ecosystem service interact. Planners will need to be aware of possible positive and negative interactions between services them when designing any intervention.
  • Experts identified food production, water provision, habitat & biodiversity and carbon storage as important ecosystem services for attaining many SDG targets (21, 21, 26, and 14 targets respectively). If balanced well, these cross-cutting services could act a central highways contributing to a number of targets simultaneously…”

Read on at: Landscape News.