Nature Based Solutions
The concept of nature-based solutions (NBSs) is now central to many countries’ climate adaptation policies, as well as the European Green Deal which calls for systemic solutions for restoring biodiversity and ecosystem services. NBSs involve “actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, while simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.”Knowing the costs and benefits of implementing such NBSs versus that of the more traditional grey, hard engineered solutions for challenges such as coastal protection and flood elevation is crucial, from a cost–effectiveness perspective.
SEMRU have made considerable progress in this space by examining the benefit values associated with the restoration of marine ecosystem services such as kelp forests, deep-sea canyons and native oyster reefs. The research on native oyster reef restoration in Galway Bay shows that the nature-based solution to protecting an at-risk coastal amenity (that is, restoring the native reefs and dampening the impact of storm surges) had a benefit-cost ratio multiple times larger than the grey infrastructure alternative of (revetment/seawall). (3)
This research was of considerable interest to the European Commission, given the policy demand for cost effectiveness analysis in coastal NBSs, where evidence is presently lacking. The study is a clear example of SEMRU’s and NUI Galway’s strategic ambition to examine issues of local importance and value that nevertheless have global relevance. Consideration of the valuable services provided by nature – particularly the marine environment – in our system of national accounting and in project appraisal will not on its own solve the numerous challenges faced by society. It can however provide key information to help policy-makers better understand the trade-offs involved in their decisions.
(1) McGrath, L., Hynes, S., J. McHale (2022). The Air we Breathe: Estimates of Air Pollution Extended Genuine Savings for Europe. Review of Income and Wealth 68 (1), 161-188 and
McGrath, L., Hynes, S., McHale, J. (2019). Augmenting the World Bank’s estimates: Ireland’s genuine savings through boom and bust. Ecological Economics, 165, 106364.
(2) Norton, D., Hynes, S. and Boyd, J. (2018). EPA Research Report No 239: Valuing Ireland’s Coastal, Marine and Estuarine Ecosystem Services, EPA Publications, Wexford. Accessible here.
(3) Hynes, S., Burger, R., Tudella, J., Norton, D. and Chen, W. (2022). Estimating the costs and benefits of protecting a coastal amenity from climate change-related hazards: Nature based solutions via oyster reef restoration versus grey infrastructure. Ecological Economics, 194, 107349