Professor and Director Urban Systems Lab, The New School, New York, United States
Nature-based solutions (NBS) are increasingly emphasized in international and national policy spheres as promising and cost-effective approaches for building more sustainable and equitable futures for societies in the Anthropocene. Cities have gained particular attention as important places for NBS implementation given their current locations (e.g., coastal cities), projected expansion, and the increasing climate impacts that urban populations face. There is, however, a lack of understanding of the way different factors influence the production of NBS benefits and management of trade-offs across urban contexts. The way diverse socio-ecological aspects but also governance mechanisms determine NBS successes but also failures in cities worldwide are not sufficiently analyzed. This gap requires assessing and consolidating the current state of NBS knowledge in each region to further allow cross-regional comparisons. NATURA’s Global Roadmap initiative aims to develop an understanding of the current global state of urban NBS knowledge. We conducted a systematic review and bibliometric analysis of the current urban NBS literature using Scopus. To obtain our initial literature pull (N=1969), we searched for urban NBS literature by global regions. Preliminary findings from our review indicate that the majority of published work on NBS in urban areas is focused in Europe (N=1109), followed by North America (N=374) and Oceania (N=200). The remaining 286 papers focus on urban NBS in the regions of Latin America and the Caribbean (N=113), the Middle East and North Africa (N=78), Sub-Saharan Africa (N=73), and Asia (N=22). We identified that one of the reasons accounting for the disparity of NBS-related publications per region relates to regional preferences in the use of terminologies that align with that of NBS, such as ecosystem-based adaptation and green infrastructure. This reflects wider challenges related to the lack of consensus over the definition and conceptualization of “nature-based solutions”, which has further impact on the way NBS knowledge is produced and managed. Further investigation into these regional differences will be the vital next step for this research in order to build tangible, actionable policies and strategies for scaling up NBS implementation worldwide. This review encompasses the first step of the NATURA Global Roadmap effort, and thus will serve as the foundation for building profiles of the way NBS is being conceptualized, institutionally adopted, and implemented in every world region.