Skip to content ↓

Nature-based Solutions Interventions: Quantifying the Potential for Positive Climate Impact

April 16, 2024

A path forward for nature-based climate change mitigation strategies. Image credit: Kevin Huang, Evan Coleman.

A path forward for nature-based climate change mitigation strategies. Image credit: Kevin Huang, Evan Coleman.

Nature-based solutions (NBS) to climate change, which harness natural ecosystems to achieve diverse environmental objectives, are becoming increasingly central to climate action plans due in large part to their multifaceted benefits and potential for immediate scalability.  A new MCSC white paper explores the classes of ecosystem intervention that present these salient opportunities to mitigate climate change. Interventions that enhance and preserve ecosystems provide opportunities to protect and strengthen the terrestrial carbon sink, while also reversing the degradation and damage caused by centuries of human development. The paper, entitled Nature-Based Climate Solutions: Current Uncertainties and Data Gaps in the Assessment of Soil Carbon Sequestration Potentials, explains the strategic vision for NBS engagement, which is developing through industry-academic partnership at the MCSC. The white paper explores different yet complementary sides of the multifaceted measurement and NBS conversations.

While the implementation of ecosystem interventions is straightforward relative to engineered climate solutions, it is unclear where investment and effort are most impactful and necessary in order to bolster natural systems and carbon sinks. To address this knowledge gap, the MIT authors — Maria Elisabeth Macfarlane and Ruofei Jia, graduate students; Leila Mirzagholi and Helena Vallicrosa, postdoctoral researchers; Evan Fricke, Research Scientist; Professor Elsa Olivetti, MCSC Co-Director and Evan Coleman, MCSC Impact Fellow; and Professor César Terrer — describe a data-driven workflow to systematically improve estimates of the climate change mitigation which can be achieved with different nature-based strategies, such as agroforestry, wetlands restoration, and biodiversity enhancement.

“A holistic, comprehensive, and intensive research program is in progress at MIT to understand — in quantifiable terms — what the highest-impact strategies are to mitigate climate change through ecosystem services and interventions,” says Coleman. “Direct feedback from, and continuous discussion with experts at Apple, Cargill, and PepsiCo, have been crucial for understanding the prerequisites for scalability and charting a path forward, both for the deployment of NBS and also for the synthesis of data on natural carbon accrual. In this white paper, researchers from the Terrer Lab explain their scientific approach to better understanding where opportunities and uncertainties lie within the space of NBS interventions.”

Another side of NBS measurement challenges was tackled last year in a different MCSC white paper, Carbon Credits and Credibility: A Collaborative Endeavor


Back to top