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Scaling and Mainstreaming Nature-based Solutions

Nature-based solutions are seen as a key focus for managing nature

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are seen as a key focus for managing nature, to tackle some of the major societal challenges associated with the climate and biodiversity crises.

As defined by the IUCN, NbS are actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural and modified ecosystems in ways that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, to provide both human well-being and biodiversity benefits. They are underpinned by benefits that flow from healthy ecosystems and target major challenges like climate change, disaster risk reduction, food and water security, health, and are critical to economic development.

To date, NbS have tended to be relatively small scale experimental or pilot projects. They need to be implemented across larger scales (“upscaling”) and involve many sectors (“mainstreaming”) if they are to deliver meaningful benefits that protect or enhance ecosystem services. Our research tackles this, appraising challenges and ideas for upscaling and mainstreaming NbS across rural and urban settings. We build on literature related to transformative change and knowledge uses in environmental governance. Members of our team are also involved in related research as part of the EU H2020 project MERLIN.

Our approach is focused on connecting the literature on environmental governance and NbS with real-life experiences and expectations of catchment-based NbS in Scotland. Our outputs will offer academic insights about conceptualising and enabling NbS across urban and rural settings, and practical insights about the key actors, approaches, funding arrangements, and evidence required to enable more effective planning, implementation, and monitoring of NBS. 

This research started in April 2022 and runs until March 2027. We are currently in the early phases research planning, but intend to:

  • Review factors likely to affect NbS implementation in different settings including policies, practices, and approaches in relation to implementing NbS
  • Embark on a stakeholder and institutional analysis of catchment-based NBS in Scotland
  • Conduct interviews to understand key barriers and enablers of NbS
  • Establish knowledge and evidence needs and gaps that inform multi-benefit NbS
  • Explore household support for sustainable flood management and how this interacts with property level flood resilience
  • Share and discuss insights with stakeholders within and beyond Scotland


An early output of this work, in conjunction with the H2020 MERLIN project, is this briefing, also available at that discusses the differences between Nature-Based Solutions and Restoration in catchment systems.

The first milestone of this project is a stakeholder analysis report produced in March 2023. The data used to produce this report are available open access at

Staff involved and key contacts

The Project PI is Kerry Waylen ( Other Hutton staff involved are Esther Carmen, and Keith Marshall.

This project is funded by the Scottish Government RESAS Strategic Research Programme (SRP) 2022-27. It corresponds to WP4 ("Achieving Multi-Purpose Nature-Based Solutions") of 'JHI-D2.2' within the Natural resources Theme. The main project page is

Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.