How can nature help build flood resilience?

How can nature help build flood resilience?

How can nature help build flood resilience?

There are many terms for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation approaches that use and/or work with nature to build flood resilience, for example nature-based solutions (NBS), eco-based solutions, green and blue infrastructure, or eco-system services. 

In this article we look at approaches and share resources that use different terminology but all have the common aim of building resilience by enhancing natural capitals. You might also find How can land use planning reduce flood risk? useful. 

The blog From Grey to Green infrastructure: a paradigm shift needed to deliver on climate action explains the concepts of grey, green, and hybrid infrastructure and the benefits of moving away from only applying hard infrastructure approaches like concrete dams or dykes to mitigate flood risk.

Table explaining nature-based solutions and other structural approaches to disaster risk reduction
Table explaining different structural approaches to disaster risk reduction. Source: World Bank.

Multiple benefits of using nature-based solutions to build flood resilience

Unlike hard infrastructure solutions which usually have a single purpose: protection from floods, nature based approaches provide a range of benefits beyond flood protection.

The blog Solutions providing multiple resilience dividends require integrated approach, and the working paper it’s based on, looks at the multiple resilience dividends of a range of flood resilience interventions, many using nature based solutions.

Mangroves planted to reduce the impact of tidal waves and coastal erosion also become home to spawning fish, contributing to ocean bio-diversity and sustaining livelihoods of local people. Parks designed to hold rainwater excess to prevent floods also become recreational spaces for urban residents, providing opportunities for exercise, leisure, and relaxation which has positive impacts on physical and mental health.

How do we make the case for investing in nature-based solutions for flood resilience?

Despite growing interest in, and advocates for, nature based approaches to disaster risk reduction many decision makers, planners, and community members still prefer traditional, hard infrastructure based on assumptions of risk mitigation from grey infrastructure is quicker to materialise.

To make nature-based flood resilience solutions more attractive for investment we need better evidence that they work.

We need pilot interventions, which’s success is rigorously assessed and evidenced, that can be used as case studies. And we need frameworks for assessing the cost and benefits of nature-based solutions for disaster risk reduction, both in comparison with traditional infrastructure, and the cost of responding to the disaster likely to happen if no risk reduction is undertaken.

Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance colleagues have written a range of blogs discussing such frameworks:

Relevant resources

The WWF in partnership with OFDA has developed this guide to help support communities using natural and nature-based methods of flood risk management

For most of the 20th century, decision-makers treated the conservation of nature as peripheral to national and global agendas. At best, it was conside

Successful cases of integrated urban flood risk management (IUFRM) have demonstrated significant results not only in reducing the negative impacts of

The objective of this document is to present five principles and implementation guidance for planning, such as evaluation, design, and implementation