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Nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation are not located where they are most needed across the Alps


Climate change impacts social-ecological systems in mountainous areas by increasing certain natural disasters and changing nature’s contributions to people (NCP). Nature-based solutions (NbS) are increasingly implemented to help local communities adapt to climatic hazards. However, the relevance of their location in relation to those hazards and local NCP has hardly been addressed. In the PORTAL (Pathways of Transformation in the Alps) project, we identified and mapped a portfolio of 97 NbS for climate change adaptation in the European Alps. Most NbS addressed drought or soil instability and aimed to provide multiple NCP simultaneously such as wood production and protective function against landslides. We analysed whether NbS are located where they are the most needed, according to both current and future intensity of the hazards they aim to address and to supply-flow-demand indicators of the NCP they aim to provide. We found that the location of NbS is not overall related to current supply-flow-demand indicators of most NCP, nor to the intensity of hazards. Nevertheless, NbS addressing droughts and floods are located in areas where these hazards are more intense, but do not match higher values for NCP indicators. Conversely, NbS aiming to produce wood and to provide protective function against landslides are located in areas with greater levels of these NCP, regardless of the intensity of hazards. These results suggest that hazards and NCP indicators are not the main drivers of NbS implementation. We argue that integrating local climate conditions and current NCP flows is needed to underpin a macro-regional strategy for planning NbS implementation.

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We thank all the implementers of NbS for the information they provided regarding NbS characteristics and their spatial location. We acknowledge EuroGeographics to provide licence to use products for academic use. We thank Lukas Egarter Vigl for the support he provided to use AlpES project database. We thank the reviewers and the editors for their constructive comments.


Funding was provided by the French National Research Agency’s Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir—Make Our Planet Great Again (grant no. ANR-19-MPGA-0009).

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Correspondence to Titouan Dubo.

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Communicated by Sandrine Anquetin and accepted by Topical Collection Chief Editor Christopher Reyer.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Trajectories of socio-ecological change in mountains.

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Dubo, T., Palomo, I., Camacho, L.L. et al. Nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation are not located where they are most needed across the Alps. Reg Environ Change 23, 12 (2023).

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