In September 2020 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued its two-yearly Living Planet Report This report presents a comprehensive study of trends in global biodiversity and the health of the planet.

From the scientific information in the report, it is clear that unsustainable human activity is pushing the natural systems that support life on Earth to the edge. Multiple indicators in the report, including the Living Planet Index (LPI), show an average 68% fall in almost 21,000 wildlife populations between 1970 and 2016.

WWF calls upon world leaders to act and reverse this trend. In the Living Planet report measures are presented which can be applied to stabilise and reverse the loss of nature. Bold and ambitious efforts that are needed include using Nature-based Solutions (NbS) to solve societal challenges. Examples are mangroves that help prevent flooding of coastal communities and wetlands that improve water quality.

A consortium of public and private actors, as well as knowledge institutes and NGOs, who joined forces as EcoShape, Building with Nature has investigated the potential of NbS for water-related infrastructure since 2008. In 14 pilot projects in The Netherlands and Indonesia evidence was collected that NbS can solve societal challenges such as flood risk reduction while restoring biodiversity.

A good example is the mangrove restoration programme in Demak, Indonesia. Here, coastal erosion was countered by building permeable dams,  stimulating sedimentation of fine sediments. The mudflats that formed are being colonised by mangroves, thus creating a stable and resilient shoreline. Unsustainable aquaculture, one of the causes of the decline of the mangroves, has stopped and  local communities have been trained in sustainable aquacultures.

The results are impressive. Our implemented best practices resulted in a fivefold increase in aquaculture  productivity and tripled income of local farmers. Furthermore, the observed mangrove recovery was accompanied by a recovery of the fish stocks and fast increasing fishing activity that compared favourably as an alternative income source for the local community.

Results such as these must give us the determination to counter the disastrous trend signalled by WWF’s Living Planet Report. Every project should be treated as an opportunity to restore what has been lost. Applying  Nature-based Solutions where possible is key to accomplish this.

WWF calls upon world leaders to put  Nature-based Solutions to work. EcoShape, Building with Nature calls upon every professional in the water field to take up the challenge. There are enough ideas and there is enough knowledge. We need bottom-up initiatives to help our leaders to live up to this challenge.

In October 2020 EcoShape will present its inspiration book ‘Building with Nature, creating, implementing and upscaling Nature-based solutions’. The book offers examples, methodologies and lessons learned about Building with Nature, as well as dialogues between experts and stakeholders about barriers and enablers for implementation of Nature-based Solutions. We hope this book inspires many to solve water-related societal challenges while restoring biodiversity.