Riparian forests as Nature-Based Solutions within the Mediterranean context

Restoring riparian forests in Crete's Koiliaris watershed proves effective and economically viable for flood mitigation, soil erosion prevention, and enhancing ecosystem services in the Mediterranean Basin.

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Koiliaris river, located in the northwest of Crete Island, Greece. Photo: LENSES project

The Mediterranean Basin faces significant challenges due to anthropogenic changes impacting both natural ecosystems and human livelihoods. Among these challenges, floods stand out as a major threat due to their frequency and severe impacts. Our latest study focuses on the Koiliaris watershed, located in the northwest of Crete Island, Greece. This region serves as an important case study, illustrating the detrimental effects of historical land-use changes such as deforestation and intensive farming practices. These activities have led to significant soil organic matter loss, rendering the soil vulnerable to water erosion and desertification.

In our research, we identify the restoration of native riparian forests as the most effective nature-based solution (NBS) for mitigating these issues. Using modeling techniques, we assessed the NBS’s ability to reduce flood risk while delivering additional ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation. Our findings indicate that implementing this NBS not only enhances the flow of essential ecosystem services compared to current practices (Fig.1) but also proves economically viable.

The cost-benefit analysis conducted in our study reveals that the investment required for this NBS would pay off within five years, highlighting its economic sustainability. Although our study is specific to the Koiliaris watershed, the insights gained offer valuable lessons in riparian forests as NBS across the Mediterranean Basin, particularly in the face of climate change.

This research was funded by the PRIMA project LENSES, whose support has been instrumental in carrying out this work. For those interested in exploring our detailed findings and methodologies, you can access the full article here.

By promoting and investing in nature-based solutions, we can better equip our communities to tackle the pressing environmental challenges that lie ahead, ensuring a sustainable and resilient future for the Mediterranean region.

Figure 1. Summary comparative assessment of targeted ecosystem services, under the current (BAU) and NBS scenarios as well as their difference

Full reference

Masiero, M., Bottaro, G., Righetti, C., Nikolaidis, N. P., Lilli, M. A., & Pettenella, D. 2024. Riparian Forests as Nature-Based Solutions within the Mediterranean Context: A Biophysical and Economic Assessment for the Koiliaris River Watershed (Crete, Greece). Forests, 15(5), 760.

SOURCEGiorgia Bottaro (UNIPD)
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