Assessing nature-based solutions for transformative change

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


  • Ignacio Palomo
  • Bruno Locatelli
  • Iago Otero
  • Matthew J. Colloff
  • Emilie Crouzat
  • Aida Cuni-Sanchez
  • Erik Gómez-Baggethun
  • Alberto González-García
  • Adrienne Grêt-Regamey
  • Amanda Jiménez-Aceituno
  • Berta Martín-López
  • Unai Pascual
  • Noelia Zafra-Calvo
  • Enora Bruley
  • Marie Fischborn
  • Rosmarie Metz
  • Sandra Lavorel
Global sustainability targets demand transformative changes. Nature-based solutions (NbS) are gaining traction in science and policy, but their potential for transformative change remains unexplored. We provide a framework to evaluate how NbS contribute to transformative change and apply it to 93 NbS from mountain social-ecological systems (SES). The framework serves to assess what elements may catalyze transformative change, how transformative change occurs, and what its outcomes are. Our results show that NbS are as much “people based” as “nature based.” Most NbS are based on four elements with transformation potential: nature's values, knowledge types, community engagement, and nature management practices. Our results confirm the potential of NbS for transformative change, observed through changes in non-sustainable trajectories of SES. We illustrate the components of our framework through a novel classification of NbS. The framework provides key components for assessing the effectiveness of NbS and allows tracking long-term transformative change processes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOne Earth
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)730-741
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 21.05.2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the PANORAMA initiative and the solution providers for the data provided, as well as three anonymous reviewers for insightful comments on a previous version of this article. Funding was provided by the Mountain Research Initiative Synthesis Workshops – TRANSMOUNT project, the French National Research Agency’s Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir – Make Our Planet Great Again (grant no. ANR-19-MPGA-0009 ), and MtnPaths – Pathways for global change adaptation of mountain socio-ecological systems, Swiss National Science Foundation grant no. 20521L_169916 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.

    Research areas

  • adaptation, knowledge, mountains, nature's contributions to people, nature-based solutions, participation, social-ecological system, transformative adaptation, transformative change, values
  • Sustainability Science
  • Ecosystems Research