The NBS Benefits Explorer – Planning Your Sustainability Journey
Companies need to make informed decisions regarding water security, climate resilience, and biodiversity conservation to facilitate their sustainability journey, targets, and goals. The NBS Benefits Explorer is a tool that can support the business case for nature-based solution (NBS) investments.
By LimnoTech (Ann Arbor, MI )
October 7, 2021
Nature-based solutions (NBS) can deliver sustainable improvements in watershed health with multiple benefits, including water, carbon, climate resilience, and biodiversity for the environment, along with social, cultural, and economic benefits for communities. A key challenge in the implementation of NBS has been a lack of a standardized approach to identify and account for the benefits accrued from investments in NBS.
The NBS Benefits Explorer is a web-based tool created to support the planning, implementation, and assessment of NBS activities. The tool was developed based on and in accordance with the published Benefit Accounting of Nature‐Based Solutions for Watersheds Guide (Brill et al., 2021). The tool is intended to help planners and implementers of NBS see how investments in NBS activities produce benefits that can be measured and used to chart progress against desired outputs, outcomes, and impacts.
For example, let’s say you want to understand the benefits you could expect from a management intervention in an agricultural project area. Through guided steps in the tool, you are provided with a list of management interventions that apply to your scenario. You decide you want to know what benefits could be realized from planting vegetation buffers (cover crops, grass strips, hedge rows, riparian buffers, trees in croplands). Once you select this option, the tool lists the various environmental processes affected by this activity (e.g., water infiltration, erosion control, carbon uptake, etc.) and the potential benefits for water, carbon, and biodiversity.
You can then click on the desired benefit to see a short description and a list of recommended indicators and methods that can be used to measure the benefit. From the list of benefits that can result from vegetative buffers, you select the “support for local pollinators” NBS benefit. You would then see that the recommended indicators include the number of plant species and pollinators. The methods suggested include counts of plant species and pollinators with specific guidance on what that means and ways to measure.
This is only one example of how the tool can be used. You can look at a range of habitat types (agricultural, estuaries, forests, grasslands, lakes, mangroves, rivers and floodplains, wetlands, urban) and intervention types (restoration, management, protection, creation). The power of this tool is in the guided pathways, the synthesis of information and data, the standardization of recommended approaches, and the flexibility in how you can use the tool.
The NBS Benefits Explorer is located at www.nbsbenefitsexplorer.net. The tool is easy to use and is flexible, supporting the exploration of benefits that result from a selected activity or the range of activities that could create a desired type of benefit. The tool is supported by a wealth of data on the connections between NBS activities; the natural physical, chemical, and biological processes they influence; and the benefits that result across water quality and quantity, carbon, and biodiversity for the environment.
Try out the tool! We hope you find it to be a valuable aid for exploring opportunities to plan and implement NBS.