Section for nature-based solutions and aquatic ecology

NIVAs section for nature-based solutions and aquatic ecology aims to apply and strengthen expertise to develop novel and to optimize existing solutions that contribute to climate change mitigation and/or adaptation, strengthen biodiversity and deliver ecosystem services to humans at the catchment scale.

Nature-based solutions (NbS) are defined by The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) as "actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”. There are many examples of how sustainable land management, conservation activities and ecosystem restoration can contribute to climate change mitigation and/or adaptation, simultaneously strengthen biodiversity and deliver ecosystem services to humans.

Nature-based solutions are highlighted by both the IPBES and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a cost-effective way of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Fieldwork in Northern Norway for the Reference rivers project.



Human activities are drivers of environmental change and land fragmentation, land use change, and intensified land use are primary global causes for the loss of biodiversity, habitats, and ecosystem services. In addition, climate change is altering temperatures and river flows rapidly and today flooding poses an increased risk for human safety and infrastructure in floodplains.

In view of the urgent need to halt, prevent, and reverse ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss, the UN General Assembly declared 2021-2030 the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. 

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Info about the group

NIVAs section for nature-based solutions and aquatic ecology was established in 2021, following our aim to contribute to the green shift as stated in the NIVA strategy toward 2030 “Research for a sustainable future”.

Nature-based solutions is one of the focus areas for the section, as it together with the rehabilitation and restoration of ecosystems, will become increasingly important for minimizing the impacts of climate change, contributing to carbon storage, strengthening biodiversity and counteracting pollution. 

In our section, we apply and strengthen expertise to optimize the use of nature-based solutions. We aim to take measures that are considering the bigger picture and consider the entire catchment in order to counteract negative trends for our rivers, lakes and landscapes. 

We are already now experiencing increased levels of conflict in connection to land use changes and freshwater resources, both in Norway and internationally, relating to safeguarding biodiversity, climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable energy production, agricultural production, intensified forestry, and increasing urbanisation. This clearly shows an urgent and increasing need for holistic and science-based management approaches that can reduce potential conflicts among stakeholders and interests related to current land uses and provide information and tools that can facilitate rapid and scale relevant decision-making solutions to these issues. Hence, we work across sections and have close collaborations with, for example, NIVAs section for water and society to increase expertise on implementation, cost-benefits and stakeholder involvement.

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Figure: Concept how to work with nature-based solutions at the catchment scale to optimally convert parts of the current land-use into resilient, (eco)functioning nature-based solutions using riparian zones, wetlands, and floodplains” (Friberg et al. 2016, WIREs WATER, adjusted)

Our field of expertise includes:

  • Restoration of freshwater ecosystems
  • Aquatic biodiversity
  • Multiple stressor effects on freshwater ecosystems
  • Monitoring and indicator development (Water Framework Directive)
  • Stream-riparian linkages
  • Experimental work with mesocosms 

We constantly incorporate, develop and standardize new technologies including eDNA and remote sensing. 

We use natural experiments and manipulation in mesocosms to understand ecosystem responses to (multiple) stressors in order to find sustainable solutions to safeguard biodiversity.

We collaborate with national and international universities, research and non-research institutes.

Please contact the section leader if you want to collaborate or commission our expertise. We regularly offer projects for students. 

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Figure: Our experimental freshwater facilities are used to study ecosystem responses to single and multiple stressors. Left: the 16 artificial stream channel in NIVA's research facility at Solbergstrand; right: the 32 artificial ponds in Hamar.

Selected current and previous projects 


Last updated 18.04.2023