Nature-based solutions in the urban context: terminology, classification and scoring for urban challenges and ecosystem services

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The concept of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) has emerged to foster sustainable development by transversally addressing social, economic, and environmental urban challenges. However, there is still a considerable lack of agreement on the conceptualization of NBS, especially concerning typologies, nomenclature, and performance assessments in terms of ecosystem services (ES) and urban challenges (UC). Therefore, this article consolidates the knowledge from 4 European projects to set a path for a common understanding of NBS and thus, facilitate their mainstreaming. To do so, firstly, we performed elicitation workshops to develop an integrative list of NBS, based on the identification of overlaps among NBS from different projects. The terminologies were formalized via web-based surveys. Secondly, the NBS were clustered, following a conceptual hierarchical classification. Thirdly, we developed an integrative assessment of NBS performance (ES and UC) based on the qualitative evaluations from each project. Afterwards, we run a PCA and calculated the evenness index to explore patterns among NBS. The main conceptual advancement resides in providing a list of 32 NBS and putting forward two novel NBS categories: NBS units (NBSu) that are stand-alone green technologies or green urban spaces, which can be combined with other solutions (nature-based or not); NBS interventions (NBSi) that refer to the act of intervening in existing ecosystems and in NBSu, by applying techniques to support natural processes. The statistical analysis suggests that NBSu are more versatile than NBSi in terms of UC and ES. Moreover, the results of the integrative assessment of NBS performance suggest a greater agreement concerning the role of NBS in addressing environmental UC, cultural and regulating ES than regarding socio-economic UC and supporting and provision ES. Finally, the ‘green factor’ and the replication of non-intensive practices occurring in nature seem to be key criteria for practitioners to identify a particular solution as an NBS ​