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Our Current Projects

The Natural Capital Project - Large-scale CoPe: Reducing Climate Risks with Equitable Nature-based Solutions: Engaging Communities on Reef-Lined Coasts

This project supports US national interests to reduce climate risk, confront environmental degradation, enhance adaptive capacities of vulnerable communities, and advance public and private investment in disaster risk prevention and reduction. Coastal zones provide key services to local communities but also carry significant risks from the land and ocean including threats from waves, storm surges, floods, and sea level rise, all of which are increasing with climate change. Protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves can help mitigate these threats while also supporting local economies and societal resilience. This project explores risks and benefits to communities in tropical coral reef-dependent communities where replenishing coral reef and mangrove ecosystems has been piloted and can be scaled up to regional and national management levels as Nature-based Solutions (NBS). This project is co-creating new knowledge with coastal communities in Florida, the US Virgin Islands, and Belize on how NBS can help address climate risk and provide equitable cobenefits. The team's complementary expertise in engineering, ecology, and social sciences, linking seven academic institutions, multiple local partners, and cross-regional organizations, expands the scope of potential research outcomes to the entire US and ultimately to global tropical coastlines beyond the three focus regions.


The goals are to (1) establish an inclusive participatory co-design approach for assessing current and future coastal risks and rigorously quantifying the benefits of NBS, including coral reef and mangrove restoration and protection, for equitably reducing risks while enhancing human well-being, economic recovery, and biodiversity benefits, and (2) determine how community experiences of risk differ within and across sites, how that affects NBS implementation, and how adaptive capacity to mitigate increasing climate change is related to localized impacts. This convergence research approach advances the quantitative, data-driven evaluation of NBS for hazard risk reduction through the assessment of ecosystem social and economic co-benefits. Project results support the development of effective policy changes, community engagement, engineering guidance, and incentives and innovative financing for NBS. The research is standardizing monitoring and analysis methods to allow for effective mainstreaming of active coastal sustainability management solutions. The expanded and standardized use of NBS also opens the opportunity to broaden participation of diverse stakeholders in the climate adaptation process.

The Natural Capital Project - Mainstreaming Nature in Decisions

The Challenge: Despite growing recognition that healthy, functioning ecosystems are fundamental to achieving food and water security, poverty reduction, and sustainable development, the values provided by nature are not widely integrated into policy and investment decisions. Mechanisms that facilitate this integration and mobilize resources for nature protection and restoration are a critical component of effective human development programs. 


The Solution: The Natural Capital Project, the Asian Development Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank are working with 10 pilot countries (Armenia, Belize, Chile, China, Colombia, Cook Islands, Ecuador, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Uruguay) to co-develop rapid natural capital approaches that directly inform policy and investment decisions for development and conservation goals, with the goal of scaling up these approaches around the world.


The project team is co-developing natural capital approaches in each pilot country – along with multilateral development bank leaders, local government partners, and local experts – in order to inform specific, priority policy or finance decisions. These will help to secure each country’s natural capital in support of their development goals. 


Outcomes: The project team is developing a standardized framework, training curricula and customizable tools for global application of rapid natural capital approaches, demonstrating and sharing different pathways for policy and finance interventions.

Enhancing social-ecological resilience and ecosystem services through restoration of coastal agroforestry systems in Hawaiʻi

Agroforestry systems have the capacity to support resilient coastal communities through providing food, conserving native biodiversity, and supporting multiple ecosystem services, and represent growing priorities for conservation initiatives worldwide. Yet, there is a paucity of data on costs and benefits of agroforest restoration and little guidance on where these systems are most likely to provide valued ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration and sediment retention, alongside food production. This project builds on a biocultural agroforestry restoration project in Heʻeia, Oʻahu designed in collaboration with the community-based non-profit Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi. We work at the farm and ahupuaʻa scale in Heʻeia to better understand the ecological, economic, and cultural outcomes of coastal agroforestry restoration through time and combine this experience with agroforestry producer interviews and environmental, social, and economic data sets to develop scenarios of agroforesty restoration options relevant across the State. Based on this, we identify hot spot priority areas that can enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services of high interest to agencies, funders, and communities across the state including local food production, non-timber forest products for market and subsistence use, carbon sequestration, and/or supporting resilient coral reef ecosystems through reducing sediment export. Collectively, this research aims to improve the evidence base of agroforestry and help to match potential incentive programs, such as carbon offsets, with agroforest ecosystem service hotspots that provide multiple benefits and support resilient communities. We will also draw upon our collective experience to organize a workshop for undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-docs focused on participatory, community-based research or co-production of knowledge through the lens of enhancing ecosystem services and community resilience through agroforestry restoration.

Nature-based solutions for climate action, biodiversity, and people in the United Arab Emirates

This project is led by Emirates Nature-WWF (EN-WWF) in partnership with Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD), the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) and funded by HSBC. The goal of the four-year project is to test and implement nature-based solutions (NbS) in the United Arab Emirates to address climate change mitigation challenges, promote biodiversity and create opportunities for socio-economic co-benefits. The project is focused on coastal ecosystem-based management and restoration addressing technical, policy and financial aspects with relevance to government and private decision makers. The results will guide decision making towards a policy framework that unlocks political support and financing for NbS to address a range of key national and global policies. Workstream one of this EN-WWF led project conducted a rapid and broad scale multi-criteria site selection process to identify and rank planning units on their suitability for delivering successful outcomes from NbS (Pittman et al. 2021, Pittman et al. 2022). Two high scoring seascapes from the stakeholder-led model) were selected as demonstration sites for implementing NbS. Workstream 2 (currently in progress) conducted an ecosystem services (ES) assessment for the two demonstration seascapes using InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs) as a spatial modeling tool (Arkema et al. 2015). Effective ecosystem services assessment to inform the design and evaluation of nature-based solutions requires diverse spatial and aspatial data spanning three broad themes:

1.) biophysical environment;

2.) biodiversity and species distributions; and

3.) human uses, infrastructure, and potential threats

Addressing land-based source pollution on the north shore of Kaua‘i

Water pollution from cesspools threatens the health, economy, and quality of life of residents of Hanalei and nearby communities. Cesspools, a type of antiquated wastewater treatment system where untreated sewage is discharged directly into the ground with minimal filtration, are still used across the Hawaiian Islands and Hanalei is home to over 150 cesspools. We partnered with the Hanalei Initiative to create a web map of existing wastewater systems in the region and rank their relative risk to the environment and human health. Click on the image to the left to view the map. This information is a resource for the community and will be used to prioritize cesspools for upgrades to more environmentally friendly systems. 

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