Using a system thinking approach to assess the contribution of nature based solutions to sustainable development goals

Eulalia Gómez Martín, Raffaele Giordano, Alessandro Pagano, Peter van der Keur, María Máñez Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


Climate change and the overexploitation of natural resources increase the need to integrate sustainable development policies at both national and international levels to fit the demands of a growing population. In 2015 the United Nations (UN) established the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development with the aim of eradicating extreme poverty, reducing inequality and protecting the planet. The Agenda 2030 highlights the importance of biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems to maintain economic activities and the well-being of local communities. Nature Based Solutions (NBS) support biodiversity conservation and the functioning of ecosystems. NBS are increasingly seen as innovative solutions to manage water-related risks while transforming natural capital into a source of green growth and sustainable development. In this context, NBS could potentially contribute to the achievement of several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by promoting the delivery of bundles of ecosystem services together generating various social, economic and environmental co-benefits. However, to achieve the full potential of NBS, it is necessary to recognize the trade-offs and synergies of the co-benefits associated with their implementation. To this aim, we have adopted a system perspective and a multi-sectoral approach to analyse the potential of NBS to deliver co-benefits while at the same time reducing the negative effects of water-related hazards. Using the case study of Copenhagen, we have analysed the relationships between the co-benefits associated with the scenario of the restoration of the Ladegaardsaa urban river. Our hypothesis is that enhancing the understanding of the social, economic and environmental factors of the system, including mutual influences and trade-offs, could improve the decision-making process and thereby enhance the capability of NBS to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number139693
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2020


  • Co-benefits
  • Fuzzy cognitive map
  • Nature based solutions
  • Participatory modelling
  • Sustainable development goals
  • Trade-off analysis

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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