NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS FOR CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION IN PORTUGUESE CITIES
The protection of natural capital and the valuation of ecosystem services are increasingly recognized as fundamental to sustainable development progress. The Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) concept emerged from previous ecosystem-based notions such as ecosystem services, green infrastructure, and ecosystem-based adaptation. The interactions between perceptions, concerns, preferences, and stakeholders' choices from different sectors and policy areas is a topic scarcely studied. This study contributes to the literature considering the connections that stakeholders built between urban challenges and priorities of proposed NBS in articulation with their prospected benefits, thus understanding the coherence and consistency of those connections. This study aimed to identify the priority interventions and the preferred NBS to assist cities in climate change adaptation. Additionally, the study aims to identify whether different environmental characteristics of cities impact the perceptions of stakeholders.
The study was conducted in 2020 in two Portuguese cities. Elvas and Faro were selected due to their different location, population sizes, and distinct urban characteristics. Tourism is the main economic activity in Faro's coastal urban area. Trade services are predominant in Elvas, which is located in a rural context, surrounded by agricultural areas. A questionnaire survey was applied to understand stakeholders' perceptions and views regarding the NBS implementation. The questionnaire was conducted face-to-face with 75 stakeholders of the two cities. A categorized sample of stakeholders was planned.The data were analyzed using IBM SPSS 21.0. Each option in each question was converted in a dichotomous variable (selecting an option = 1, non-selection = 0). The variables investigated were 146, some characterizing stakeholders (city, institution and job-position) and other the stakeholders' choices for each topic question. There were two variables for the city (Elvas and Faro) and six variables for the stakeholder category (university, schools, municipal institutions, social institutions and associations, green space companies and environmental associations, and regional administration institutions). It was also considered three variables for the job position. The binary logistic regression model was used to understand the determinants of the likelihood of stakeholders' answers.
The stakeholders' engagement in the effective NBSs planning, implementation, and management is fundamental for strengthening democratization and acceptance of the decided plans. This way, NBSs are codesigned with scientific and local experiential knowledge enriching available information. According to stakeholders in this investigation, climate change was one of the main concerns in the urban context. It was associated with the incidence of heatwaves, drought, and water scarcity. Additionally, stakeholders were concerned about the low quantity and poor management of urban green spaces. They believe that green spaces quantity and quality should improve through rehabilitation of degraded areas and encourage soft mobility with pedestrian and cycle green paths. Besides that, environmental education was considered essential to ensure NBS effectiveness. The preferred NBSs were implementing urban trees, green shadow areas, and riverbank rehabilitation. The main expected benefits were leisure and relaxation, air purification, thermal comfort and public health improvement. Relationships obtained with the logistic regression method revealed coherence among stakeholders' awareness of concerns, priorities, preferences for NBS and understanding of benefits. Although, it was found that exists low awareness and insufficient knowledge by some stakeholders about the best NBS to overcome existing climate change challenges. The urban policy should improve awareness, provide comprehensive information flow on the multiple benefits of NBS, and adapt to local needs. The determinants of stakeholders' perceived challenges, priorities, and NBS benefits were influenced by different environmental and social characteristics of the cities.
Keywords - Nature-based Solutions, Green Infrastructure, Stakeholders' Preferences, Sustainable City