Summary description
Nature-Based Solutions (NbS) and ecosystem restoration are often conflated, but cannot be assumed to be identical. Understanding and choosing between these different framings is important. It affects our ambitions for reinvigorating natural systems, the range of actors and resources that can be drawn on to achieve them, and every part of how interventions are planned, delivered and appraised.
To explore the differences and relationships between NbS and restoration we focus on freshwater catchment management initiatives, but our points are relevant to initiatives in other settings or framed in other terms. We firstly identify the potential differences by analysing accepted definitions of restoration and Nature-Based Solutions; and we then illustrate these with examples of catchment management in UK and Ireland, with which we are familiar from our own work and collaborations.
These real-world cases demonstrate that the framings of restoration and NbS can lead to different priorities for how ecosystems and natural processes are managed; and who is involved and how projects develop. The cases also show that interventions may be somewhere on a continuum somewhere in between the two concepts, and potentially shift over time. There is often a lack of clarity over why these terms are used, causing sometimes unacknowledged confusion and potentially missed opportunities to improve catchment management.
Different stakeholder groups involved in catchment management could benefit from more opportunity to explicitly reflect on preferred goals, and the implications for how to achieve this. We need more explicit reflection on the purpose of an intervention, and then different actors from site-managers to policy and other enabling groups can plan to achieve that vision. Given the time lags between interventions and outcomes, it is particularly important to use these insights in adaptive approaches to understand the changing drivers shaping current and future action.

Source: Publication abstract.