NALMS Position on Nature-Based Solutions in Urban Lakes and Watersheds

A green roof in Fukuoka, Japan. Vegetated roofs are a NbS that use the power of green space to absorb stormwater runoff, thereby reducing flood risk, improving air and water quality, and providing aesthetic and recreational green space. Source:

Written by Gabriella Placido, NALMS 2021 Policy Intern

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With climate change rapidly intensifying, historical scientific predictions of extreme weather and devastating natural disasters, biodiversity loss, food and water insecurity, and ecosystem collapse are coming true. Additionally, urban lakes and watersheds, along with other freshwater ecosystems around the world, are being struck the hardest from human stressors in comparison to other systems; urban lakes are subject to some of the heaviest use and the most harmful anthropogenic impacts. Globally, a growing number of lake managers and urban planners are harnessing the power of natural processes to solve these environmental and societal issues. Nature-based solutions (NbS) can serve as an important tool in significantly addressing and mitigating many of these concerns, while simultaneously yielding many other valuable benefits.

NALMS strongly recommends higher prioritization of the implementation of NbS in urban lakes and watersheds to comprehensively address these present-day challenges. NbS can be a meaningful part of a transition from short-sighted planning for current generations to longer-term thinking for future generations that accommodates impacts of climate change. NbS also include many mutual societal and economic benefits, including resilience to extreme storms and natural hazards, improved water quality and quantity, increased food security, improved air quality, increased recreational space, energy conservation, maintenance cost savings, and much more.

NbS and climate resilience must become more of a legislative and financial priority to avoid the disastrous alternatives that will be more costly and will result in lost resources, biodiversity, properties, and human life, among many other catastrophic consequences. Science-based policies must be enacted to support the growth of these initiatives.

Going forward, NALMS supports the following for NbS:

  • Reduced legislative barriers and increased funding must clear the way for wider implementation of NbS. NbS should be encouraged and financially incentivized in new legislation, and required if and when appropriate.
  • Transparent community engagement must occur during implementation to recognize concerns and mitigate possible disservices of a project.
  • Using a watershed or landscape scale approach, stormwater treatment trains should be implemented when possible to address the significant issues associated with gray stormwater infrastructure, while xeriscaping principles should be used to mitigate droughts and heat waves while conserving limited water supplies.
  • NbS must mitigate environmental justice concerns rather than exacerbate them. Green gentrification can be avoided by properly engaging the community, doing the right socioeconomic and historical research, and employing effective tools as outlined in Klein et al. (2020).
  • Increased interdisciplinary communication and collaboration must occur to effectively and equitably enact these projects, which involve many more actors than just environmental scientists and planners.
  • This young discipline needs more data and research attention to better understand best management practices, further quantify services and disservices, and promote wider confidence in NbS implementation.

Fostering the growth of NbS and climate resilience in these ways are important components of tackling climate change. However, NALMS also supports immediate legislative action on human-caused climate change through the significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This is critical to address the source of climate change, rather than only treating the symptoms. NALMS states that both must occur in tandem and both the sources and symptoms of climate change must be treated in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, as detailed in the latest findings from the American Fisheries Society et al. (2020) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2021). The significant environmental, economic, and societal costs of neglecting environmental needs and taking a “business as usual” approach towards climate change can be ignored no longer. The time is now for urgent action through wider adoption of NbS by increasing funding and legislative opportunities, and decreasing legislative barriers and greenhouse gas emissions.

Adopted by the NALMS Board of Directors on October 7, 2021