12 May 2021

A University of East London (UEL) academic is helping to shape guidelines for practitioners of nature-based solutions (NBS), a growing field of sustainability that aims to effect societal change by working in harmony with the natural world.

Senior research fellow Dr Stuart Connop has made a significant contribution to an EU handbook that brings together the latest thinking around the assessment of NBS.

The guidebook is called Evaluating the Impact of Nature-Based Solutions - A Handbook for Practitioners and represents a collaboration of 17 EU projects, carried out under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.


The book is aimed at anyone involved in the delivery of nature-based solutions but has a specific target audience of members of local and regional authorities who are involved in the planning, delivery and stewardship of nature-based solutions. The aim is to support this audience in developing and delivering evaluation indicators,"

Dr Connop, senior research fellow at UEL, said.

He led on the development of the Enhancing Biodiversity Indicators theme and was co-lead author on chapters concerning the principles and applications of performance and impact evaluation, among other topics.

He said, "The guidebook is the results of a clustering process that brings together EU Horizon 2020 funded projects on similar themes - in this case nature-based solutions, to develop collaborative outputs that have greater value than can be achieved through individual projects. In this case, I was one of the researchers representing our Connecting Nature project."

Connecting Nature is a consortium of 30 partners within 16 European countries which works with local authorities, communities, industry partners, NGOs and academics who are investing in large scale implementation of nature-based projects in urban settings. 

Dr Connop, who works with the Sustainability Research Institute, said, "The book shows that there are a variety of approaches - from very technical remote sensing through to citizen science methods for generating data on the impacts of nature-based solutions. So, no matter what your skill level and available resources, or the scale of your nature-based solution, there are options to help everyone develop a better understanding of the benefits."

Nature-based solutions aim to provide benefits for human wellbeing and biodiversity. They include the protection, restoration and management of ecosystems, such as forests and wetlands, but also focus on bringing nature back into urban environments.

Dr Connop was featured at the beginning of the year for his contribution to research exploring the impact of autonomous drones and robots on urban spaces and he is continuing his work with Connecting Nature.

He said, "Key next steps in this process include leading on the development of an NBS biodiversity evaluation mini-guidebook, and supporting an Innovation Summit in Poznan, Poland, at the end of June, where we will be showcasing the role of nature-based enterprises in mainstreaming nature-based solutions. This will include presenting some of our work from our project ARENA, the world's first urban nature-based enterprise business support project."

The handbook is available as a free PDF download here.

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