Nature-based solutions knowledge gaps

Explore the nature-based knowledge gap analysis below to help identify future avenues for research.

The knowledge gap database compiles an evidence base for nature-based solutions, to support defining research and innovation avenues, bolster policy and practitioners’ knowledge and knowledge-implementation. The database gathers 'gaps' collected through desk study and online consultations from August to October 2021 (see the NetworkNature report on practical, research and innovation needs for more information). 171 knowledge gaps were collected and categorized into 30 broad gap topics. This database will be updated during the course of the NetworkNature.


Displaying 61 - 80 of 169
Gap Description Origin of source Source Resource Broad topic

How many NbS have been implemented, where, what is their surface, what are their outcomes in terms of CC adaptation and mitigation, what’s their potential for transformative adaptation.

Online public consulation University / Higher Education / Public research institute sector

Chausson, A., Turner, B., Seddon, D., Chabaneix, N., Girardin, C.A.J., Kapos, V., Key, I., Roe, D., Smith, A., Woroniecki, S., Seddon, N., 2020. Mapping the effectiveness of nature‐based solutions for climate change adaptation. Glob Change Biol 26, 6134–6155. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15310 Seddon, N., Chausson, A., Berry, P., Girardin, C.A.J., Smith, A., Turner, B., 2020. Understanding the value and limits of nature-based solutions to climate change and other global challenges. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 375, 20190120. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0120

  • Direct and indirect benefits for climate mitigation
  • Knowledge base

How much is enough? Does any improvement count? For practical utilization we need how much of nature-based solution is necessary to reach the expected effects. This have to be analysed and defined by taking different landscape configurations into account to know: NBS thresholds in different landscape types

Online public consulation University / Higher Education / Public research institute sector

Dauber, J., Miyake, S., 2016. To integrate or to segregate food crop and energy crop cultivation at the landscape scale? Perspectives on biodiversity conservation in agriculture in Europe. Energ Sustain Soc 6, 25. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13705-016-0089-5

  • Effectivennes at different geographical scales

How much is the difference in cost between NbS and [a] conventional solution?

Desk Study Academic literature

Grace, M., Balzan, M., Collier, M., Geneletti, D., Tomaskinova, J., Abela, R., Borg, D., Buhagiar, G., Camilleri, L., Cardona, M., Cassar, N., Cassar, R., Cattafi, I., Cauchi, D., Galea, C., La Rosa, D., Malekkidou, E., Masini, M., Portelli, P., Pungetti, G., Spagnol, M., Zahra, J., Zammit, A., Dicks, L.V., 2021. Priority knowledge needs for implementing nature-based solutions in the Mediterranean islands. Environmental Science & Policy 116, 56–68. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2020.10.004

  • Effectiveness compared to conventional approaches

How multiple often individually small NBS can combine to deliver collectively significant natural flood management strategies ?

Desk Study Institutional publication

European Commission. Directorate General for Research and Innovation., 2020. Nature-based solutions: state of the art in EU funded projects. Publications Office, LU.

  • NbS interaction at the landscape scale

How should NBS be designed and implemented to effectively contribute to the protection of biodiversity (habitat structure/condition and species composition) at different scales, while also delivering other benefits ?

Desk Study Institutional publication

European Commission. Directorate General for Research and Innovation., 2020. Nature-based solutions: state of the art in EU funded projects. Publications Office, LU.

  • Biodiversity benefits

However, we argue that in order to understand what contributes to nature-based solutions performing at their highest potential, conceptual and empirical differentiation between process and outcomes is important (e.g. were relevant stakeholders involved in the process, or not; which actors were involved; how much ownership over the decision-making process did different actors have, selections of sites etc.), as a precondition for indicator development, identification of data gaps and robust, cost-effective and continuous data gathering methods to be put in place. Systematic comparison between different processes of design and implementation is needed, through appropriate case selection and evaluation methods.

Desk Study Academic literature

Dumitru, A., Frantzeskaki, N., Collier, M., 2020. Identifying principles for the design of robust impact evaluation frameworks for nature-based solutions in cities. Environmental Science & Policy 112, 107–116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2020.05.025

  • Methodologies and tools for systematic evaluation

Implementation of adaptation actions requires joint funding of researchers and managers if we are aiming at preventing the climate-related impacts on biodiversity. So far, while our knowledge of the effects of climate change and biological invasions on nature has progressed significantly, mitigation / attenuation measures haven't followed the same pattern. It is now very important to move from data collection to action. For that purpose, we are needing financial support for the implementation of NbS solutions, and maybe most importantly, monitor over the long-term the results of the measures that have been taken.

Online public consulation University / Higher Education / Public research institute sector
  • Effectivennes at different time scales

Implementation of NBS projects need more cooperation and legislative adaptation. Small pilot projects already implemented do not have the power to trigger larger projects implementation. To implement an NBS there is need to go local. More quantification of monetary benefits for the community have to be identified so the local citizens accept to give land for an NBS or to accept it in the community

Online public consulation Private company (SME) sector
  • Planning and policy frameworks

Important knowledge gaps exist in terms of water quality impacts of catchment- scale habitat degradation and, conversely, WFD benefits of implementing NBS such as peatland restoration.

Desk Study Institutional publication

European Commission. Directorate General for Research and Innovation., 2020. Nature-based solutions: state of the art in EU funded projects. Publications Office, LU.

Improve literacy about global NBS and climate change impacts at the local scale, to motivate resident involvement in NBS implementation.

Desk Study Grey literature

Raymond, C.M., Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (Great Britain), 2017. An impact evaluation framework to support planning and evaluation of nature-based solutions projects: prepared by the EKLIPSE Expert Working Group on nature-based solutions to promote climate resilience in urban areas.

  • Awareness and capacity building

Improved knowledge is required on the instruments and tools needed to successfully implement NbS. There is a need to identify good-practice strategies for planning and implementing NbS and generating more knowledge on the cost-efficiency of NbS in comparison to other, more conventional (engineered) approaches

Desk Study Academic literature

Kabisch, N., Frantzeskaki, N., Pauleit, S., Naumann, S., Davis, M., Artmann, M., Haase, D., Knapp, S., Korn, H., Stadler, J., Zaunberger, K., Bonn, A., 2016. Nature-based solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation in urban areas: perspectives on indicators, knowledge gaps, barriers, and opportunities for action. E&S 21, art39. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-08373-210242

  • Effectiveness compared to conventional approaches

In particular, input may be required from those with expertise in monetary valuation of NBS, to understand data on primarily the economic values- side, but also on the prices- side of NBS cost-benefit analyses, enabling more realistic comparisons with hard-engineered approaches especially at finer scales and in specific development contexts

Desk Study Institutional publication

European Commission. Directorate General for Research and Innovation., 2020. Nature-based solutions: state of the art in EU funded projects. Publications Office, LU.

  • Effectiveness of hybrid solutions

In view of the complementary costs and benefits of NbS versus engineered approaches to dealing with the risks posed by climate change, there is growing consensus among ecologists, engineers and managers that a combination of green and grey may be the best solution in many contexts

Desk Study Academic literature

Seddon, N., Chausson, A., Berry, P., Girardin, C.A.J., Smith, A., Turner, B., 2020. Understanding the value and limits of nature-based solutions to climate change and other global challenges. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 375, 20190120. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0124

  • Effectiveness of hybrid solutions

Information on climate change risks and potential impacts on specific sectors: Among the most vulnerable sectors are agriculture, marine resources, water resources, forest ecosystems, ‘hot spots’ for biodiversity, as well as human health

Desk Study Institutional publication

UNEP-IEMP, 2019. Research on Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA): A reference guide.

  • Risks from slow-onset events

Integrating and mainstreaming NbS for CCA and DRR needs to be accompanied by technical standards, collaborative governance, capacity building and sufficient funding.

Desk Study Institutional publication

European Environment Agency., 2021. Nature-based solutions in Europe policy, knowledge and practice for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Publications Office, LU.

  • Approaches and governance systems for implementation
  • Technical references, design standards and guidelines
  • Synergies and trade-offs between goals

Interdisciplinary methods and research designs to monitor synergies and trade-offs within and across challenges

Desk Study Grey literature

Somarakis, G., Stagakis, S., Chrysoulakis, N., n.d. ThinkNature / Nature-Based Solutions Handbook. https://doi.org/10.26225/JERV-W204

  • Synergies and trade-offs between goals

It is, therefore, important that EbA costs, as well as multiple benefits, are addressed in future research and reported from projects. Another knowledge gap to fill relating to the costs and benefits of EbA is the lack of information on the distribution of these costs and benefits over time and space.

Desk Study Academic literature

Doswald, N., Munroe, R., Roe, D., Giuliani, A., Castelli, I., Stephens, J., Möller, I., Spencer, T., Vira, B., Reid, H., 2014. Effectiveness of ecosystem-based approaches for adaptation: review of the evidence-base. Climate and Development 6, 185–201. https://doi.org/10.1080/17565529.2013.867247

  • Effectivennes at different geographical scales
  • Effectivennes at different time scales
  • Cost/benefit evaluations

It will also be needed to identify awareness-raising factors for stakeholders, and explore participatory ways of translating and sharing lessons learned on Nature-based Solutions including on principles and standards

Desk Study Institutional publication

Eggermont, H., Le Roux, X., Tannerfeldt, M., Enfedaque, J., Zaunberger, K., Biodiversa+ partners, 2021. Strategic Research & Innnovation Agenda : Horizon Europe Partnership on Biodiversity.

  • Stakeholder engagement

It would be beneficial to develop future research to build a robust evidence base for the contribution of NbS to job creation as referred to by the European Commission

Desk Study Academic literature

Cohen-Shacham, E., Andrade, A., Dalton, J., Dudley, N., Jones, M., Kumar, C., Maginnis, S., Maynard, S., Nelson, C.R., Renaud, F.G., Welling, R., Walters, G., 2019. Core principles for successfully implementing and upscaling Nature-based Solutions. Environmental Science & Policy 98, 20–29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2019.04.015

  • Knowledge base

Knowledge base for the development, deployment and assessment of Nature-based Solutions, including in an urban and peri-urban context

Desk Study Institutional publication

Eggermont, H., Le Roux, X., Tannerfeldt, M., Enfedaque, J., Zaunberger, K., Biodiversa+ partners, 2021. Strategic Research & Innnovation Agenda : Horizon Europe Partnership on Biodiversity.

  • Knowledge base

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