Nature-based Solutions

In August 2021, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its sombre report detailing the future climate scenarios resulting from human activity on Earth. This reflects the world having crossed four of the nine planetary boundaries defined by the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University. Climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land system change and altered biogeochemical cycles paint a bleak picture and set a challenge for the world at large for living within environmental limits. With a stark warning of the impacts of rising temperatures, such as increases in the frequency of extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding, it is more important than ever for businesses to consider the environment and their impacts on it. Importantly, the 2021 Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity seeks to place nature at the centre of the conversation on sustainable economic development, as an equal partner in decision-making.

Nature-based solutions (NbS) provide a means to do just that, by working with nature to deliver benefits for people and biodiversity. Instead of working in opposition to natural systems, as so much of the built environment does, NbS incorporate these systems into the design and maintenance of development and infrastructure. They can focus on the protection, restoration or sustainable management of natural and semi-natural ecosystems or the creation of new ecosystems like urban ‘green infrastructure’.

The essential power of NbS is in their potential for multifunctionality and regenerative design: one intervention can have multiple impacts, benefits and investment returns, including contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and their targets. In this way, NbS go far beyond mitigating effects to deliver wide-reaching positive environmental, social and economic outcomes and gains.

RSK has a comprehensive NbS service portfolio. This includes one of the largest ecology offerings in the UK, a significant capability in landscape planning, design and management and sustainability advice. Our nature-based design interventions not only restore the natural environment but can also contribute to water conservation and management and energy efficiency. They can create resilient buildings, estates and neighbourhoods that are flexible and adaptable to climate change and other changes. This can be achieved through the responsible use of natural resources and systems, and sustainable, locally specific design solutions so that such developments integrate well with their surroundings and become an enduring part of the urban fabric. The wide scope and capability of the RSK team means we can plan, deliver and realise benefits from NbS from concept to completion and ensure long-term sustainable management and stewardship.

A multidisciplinary offering

RSK is a leading international environmental and engineering consultancy headquartered in the UK and rapidly expanding across the globe. Our specialist businesses unite to form multidisciplinary teams that uniquely enable us to provide integrated solutions throughout a project. We have already delivered numerous successful nature-led projects and we expect our offering to continue to grow as we, and the clients we serve, prioritise sustainable development.

Our companies offering NbS include ADAS, Binnies, RSK Biocensus, Habitat Management, Salix, cbec eco-engineering, RSK Wilding, Stephenson Halliday, Twig, bts Group, Solutions By Nature and Nature Positive.

Providing practical nature-based solutions

At their core, NbS aim to incorporate natural systems and processes into the developmental design and implementation of projects. At RSK, we can support clients across the project life cycle: from design through to construction and ongoing management and maintenance.

We offer a variety of surveys – arboricultural, ecological, invasive species – and consulting services, such as liaising with communities and stakeholders, creating green corporate strategies, biodiversity net gain (BNG) assessments and strategies, spatial plans and master planning, design and management. We can also play a key role in the implementation of designs through our services in vegetation management, creating habitats and restoring landscapes, lake desilting, pond creation and seeding and landscape contract administration and contracting, to name a few. Our service offering is designed to offer a single, comprehensive solution for a project, avoiding the need to seek out several subcontractors. Our solutions not only fight against climate change but also provide value for our client beyond their initial investment.

Working in a wide variety of settings and sectors

Our range of specialist businesses gives us the flexibility to work in all kinds of environments and settings.

Across the UK, we are experienced in designing solutions for both urban and rural NbS projects. In an urban setting, we can create allotments, green spaces, parks, green architecture and more, that not only improve air quality but also cool cities and towns. Incorporating inclusive design, such as access to green spaces, has positive physical and mental health impacts, especially for those from socio-economically disadvantaged groups. In a rural environment, we can assist clients by sustainably restoring water systems and planting trees or hedgerows that serve to enhance wildlife connectivity and biodiversity in addition to creating opportunities for natural flood management.

We are able to advise on large-scale projects, such as creating strategic frameworks for NbS through green and blue infrastructure strategies, nature recovery strategies and other systems-based approaches to land planning and management. These include catchment-scale proposals for natural flood management or afforestation and peatland restoration for carbon sequestration and habitat creation.

When it comes to construction projects, our NbS can assist developers in reaching biodiversity net gain goals that are increasingly required, as well as creating higher quality schemes that are more acceptable to planning authorities. By working with clients to include nature-based approaches from the start of a project and to consider their long-term management, we help to deliver a more efficient and optimised programme of work, and help ensure that it is sustainable.

Creating a global green footprint

Viable and sustainable NbS are increasingly crucial in a variety of sectors. RSK’s growing global footprint means we can offer NbS to clients all over the world. RSK generates value by responding rapidly and applying the technical expertise and experience of its multidisciplinary teams to optimise the timeliness and cost-effectiveness of projects.

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Our Expertise

  • Biodiversity and ecology

    • Landscape-scale ecology, including nature recovery networks and rewilding
    • Arboricultural surveying, including planning and tree risk assessments
    • Protected species surveys (badgers, bats, great crested newts, etc.)
    • Invasive species (e.g., Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed) surveys and management
    • Habitat creation
    • Ecological mitigation
    • Biodiversity net gain assessments and strategies
    • Tree planting
    • Preliminary ecological appraisal (PEA) and BREEAM ‘feed-in’ services
    • Woodland creation and management
    • Peatland creation
    • Carbon sequestration calculations
    • Aquatic ecology consultancy

  • Landscape

    • Green and blue infrastructure planning and strategy formulation
    • Master planning
    • Hard and soft landscaping design and implementation
    • Landscape architecture and urban design (including urban greening, water sensitive urban design and resilient, climate adapted design, community growing and therapeutic horticulture, parks and community greenspaces, natural play and sensory gardens)
    • Landscape conservation and restoration
    • Landscape management and maintenance, including landscape and ecological management plans and strategies and vegetation management (including coppicing and glade creation)
    • Contractor procurement and contract administration of work on site
    • Accessibility and wayfinding: planning and designing of walking routes for health walks and other green prescribing interventions

  • Water

    • Sustainable river restoration and natural flood management, sustainable drainage systems, floodplain reconnection and geomorphological restoration, bioengineering
    • Wetland habitat creation (including wetland and wild flower plant nursery and contracting services, reed bed creation and management)
    • Lake desilting
    • Pond creation and seeding
    • Marine protection and restoration (including seagrass)

  • Green strategies and urban greening

    • Green infrastructure opportunity assessments, audits and advice, including for green roofs and walls
    • Green corporate strategy and natural capital accounting
    • Monitoring and evaluation frameworks

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