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Nature offers a powerful set of tools for addressing hazards like flooding and erosion. Nature-based solutions use natural systems, mimic natural processes, or work in tandem with traditional approaches to address these specific hazards. Communities across the countryó along rivers or coasts, large or small, rural or urbanó can incorporate nature-based solutions in local planning, zoning, regulations, and built projects to help reduce their exposure to flood and erosion impacts.

Ninety-six percent of the total U. Smart nature-based solutions provide multiple benefits, giving communities high returns on their investments in flood risk reduction strategies.

Healthier Environments Natural systems and nature-based solutions can reduce flood risks, while improving water quality and enhancing wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.

Ecological Benefits of Nature-Based Solutions Communities have choices in how they prepare for and respond to floods. Often overlooked is the role that nature and nature-based solutions can play alongside seawalls or dams and levees.

For instance, we are safer when rivers have more room during floods and floodwaters can disperse and slow down rather than rise, rage and threaten communities. Along our coasts, natural features like sand dunes and marshes or coral reefs and oyster reefs reduce wave heights, absorb storm surges and help stop erosion. But the true return on investment for nature-based solutions is realized when the other, multiple benefits they provide are considered.

For example, wetlands, floodplains, forests, prairies and marshes improve water quality by filtering pollutants and sediment from water.

Improved water quality can boost tourism and recreation or reduce costs at water treatment facilities. Even smaller-scale projects, like rain gardens or green roofs, can help reduce the impacts of local flooding events while also providing benefits like improved community appeal and habitat for birds and butterflies or pollinating bees. Traditional structures designed to control floodwaters or storm surges are usually built on beaches, marshes or wetlands, where they destroy valuable wildlife habitat.

On the other hand, natural areas and nature-based solutions provide, create or improve wildlife habitat for fish, birds and other species, which enhances recreational opportunities for community members and tourists alike.

Improved Social Ties With their aesthetic appeal and restorative properties, natural and open spaces draw people together and strengthen community ties.

Social Benefits of Nature-Based Solutions The presence of nearby natural areas and green spaces appears to strengthen social ties among neighbors by encouraging the use of common spaces.

Strong community relationships increase the likelihood that individuals will work together to achieve common goals, exchange information, and maintain informal social controls, which leads to cleaner and safer public spaces, less crime, and can have a positive impact on public health. Recent studies demonstrate that green spaces in urban areas may actually decrease violent and property crimes in neighborhoods. One study comparing 98 apartment buildings in an inner-city neighborhood indicated that residents with higher amounts of nearby nature reported fewer violent and minor crimes, and fewer incivilities.

In Chicago, a study found residents reported fewer incidents of illegal activity in places containing urban nature. In a study in Philadelphia, vacant lotsówhich are often associated with illegal activityówere cleaned of trash and illegal dumping, planted with grass and trees, and had a small wooden fence built around the perimeter. Healthier Communities Natural areas and nature-based solutions can promote physical and mental health, clean air and water, and help cool our cities.

Public Health Benefits of Nature-Based Solutions The trees and vegetation in natural areas and green spaces improve water quality and air quality, particularly in larger cities, which has been connected to lower rates of asthma and wheezing in urban populations. Beyond these more obvious benefits, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests contact with nature provides a multitude of health benefits. Close proximity to natural areas provides a positive emotional experience that has been shown to speed up recovery time for hospitalized patients, motivate healthy behaviors like exercise, and improve or sustain mental health.

And green streetscapes encourage active modes of transport, such as walking or cycling. Also important, tree canopies and urban green spaces have shown a significant cooling effect in cities, which reduces energy demands for air conditioning and lowers local emissions. Stronger Economies Economic benefits range from reduced flood damage costs due to better flood protection to lower water treatment costs to healthier fisheries, better recreational opportunities, and increased tourism and economic development.

In , the total economic value of U. The vast majority of commercial and recreational fisheries rely on species that use floodplains and wetlands for some stage of their life cycle development. Beach-based tourism in the U. Also, in a series of studies about trees in business districts around the U. We should let nature do its very best job for us. It also provides for a much better habitat for salmon, provides for some areas of recreation for the folks nearby.


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