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Account for a wide range of benefits and potential trade-offs associated with nature-based solutions

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Account for a wide range of benefits and potential trade-offs associated with nature-based solutions

Account for a wide range of benefits and potential trade-offs associated with nature-based solutions

Posted on November 17, 2020 by Sasha Lishansky

Authoring Organizations: Pacific Institute
Consulting Organizations: ALUS Canada
Universal: No
Applicable Tags: Nature-Based Solutions
Last Updated Dec 1, 2020

Overview

Nature-based solutions (NBS) offer a broad range of benefits, including improved water quantity and quality, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity protection. However, these solutions may also have trade-offs (negative or unintended impacts) such as displacing land users or replacing diverse ecosystems with single species plantations.

When considering different NBS project options, identify the full range of potential benefits and trade-offs of each project design. Conduct quantitative and qualitative analysis on the benefits and trade-offs of greatest interest and collect data to verify accounting and inform future action. When possible, translate benefits into monetary values to build a business case for NBS.

This Lesson Learned is based on Benefit Accounting of Nature-Based Solutions for Watersheds Landscape Assessment, 2020; and Incorporating Multiple Benefits into Water Projects: A Guide for Water Managers, 2020.

Benefits

Accounting for a wide range of benefits and potential trade-offs associated with an NBS can support an objective comparison of different project designs and mitigate risk. This preparation can inform project design to leverage additional benefits and thus optimize resource use. Finally, it can increase support from stakeholders and decision makers as well as help to identify co-funding opportunities.

Collecting data on benefits over the course of the project supports adaptive management (changes in management based on new information). Sharing this data leads to increased transparency and trust and raises awareness of NBS.  

Valuing NBS benefits in monetary terms demonstrates ROI, builds a business case for investing in NBS, and supports the creation of new markets such as water trading and carbon trading.

Guidance

Identify the full range of potential benefits and trade-offs, regardless of whether these outcomes are quantifiable: 

To conduct quantitative and qualitative analyses on priority benefits and trade-offs:

  • Determine metrics for key benefits (see Table 3 of Benefit Accounting of Nature-Based Solutions for Watersheds Landscape Assessment).
  • Utilize existing frameworks, methods and tools to account for benefits and trade-offs. (See Table 2 of the Landscape Assessment).
  • Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good: evaluate what you can and add in additional information as resources will allow.
  • Incorporate uncertainty into the analysis through scenario testing, Monte Carlo simulations, ranges of expected outcomes, standard errors, or other sector-specific practices. Plugins allow analysts to add Monte Carlo simulation to any spreadsheet model.

Example

ALUS Canada channels funding from the public, private, and philanthropic sectors to implement NBS projects on agricultural lands. Project design, benefit accounting, and data collection is determined by the partner organizations’ priority benefits. 

ALUS Canada’s Modeste Natural Infrastructure Project will restore 650 acres of wetland habitat in the Modeste watershed and implement NBS on agricultural lands to attenuate floods and improve water quality. The project will evaluate different combinations of natural infrastructure with built infrastructure through IMWEBs modelling and cost-benefit analysis by Innotech Alberta. This evaluation will contribute to building a knowledge base and value proposition for public and private sector investment in nature-based solutions.

Projects that have validated this Lesson


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This lesson learned reflects the beliefs and experiences of the author, not necessarily the Pacific Institute, CEO Water Mandate, or UN Global Compact.