It is important to note that operationalizing effective national plans and mechanisms to implement NbS will help us meet our global/EU biodiversity targets. In essence, coastal management using NbS and conservation are not mutually exclusive for Ireland. They are clearly intertwined as seen in the proportion of dune and coastal habitats lying within designated Natura 2000 sites. Effective coastal management using NbS will reduce the chronic degradation and loss of these coastal ecosystems and improve our consistent poor performance in reviews. Protection, enhancement and restoration plans of coastal ecosystems need to be supported within local governments and need to be fair so that they equally consider social, economic and environmental factors – especially within the marginalized coastal communities that host these protected ecosystems.
Researchers in Geography at NUI Galway have built huge credibility with State, public bodies and coastal communities with community-based research and research on coastal NbS. During 2021, their work was recognized by the Climate Action Regional Offices (CARO) in Ireland and the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), the leading professional body for ecologists and environmental managers in the UK, Ireland and abroad, as an exemplar of how NbS can work in partnership with academics and communities. It is critically important that third level institutes like NUI Galway continue to support and value our researchers who are prepared to engage in these difficult-but-vital dialogues that arise in public discussion through sustained and effective community engagement outside of the confines of the university and make research accessible in forums beyond paywalled journals.
With climate pressures increasing and property development continuing as usual along the coast, the price of poor ocean management creeps higher. Nature-based solutions (NbS) have the potential to build climate resilience and tackle key societal challenges in Ireland.
We now need to build clarity between responsibilities across different levels of coastal governance, and consider the value of grey vs blue-green (NbS) coastal defences. To realise the poential of NbS, we need funding and opportunities to harness the willingness of our coastal communities to engage, share their learnings, and take action locally. Restored coastal ecosystems bring health, social and economic benefits to coastal communities while also mitigating the impacts of climate risks. It is in all of our best interests to build climate resilience in Ireland.
(1) See ‘Blue Carbon and Marine Sequestration in Irish Waters and Coastal Habitats’.
The author would like to acknowledge funding from the Marine Institute (‘Increasing coastal resilience using terrestrial- and ocean-based Nature-based Solutions’, 2022-2026) in collaboration with Dr Stephen Nash (Civil Engineering) and Ms Sheena Fennell (Earth & Ocean Sciences).
The author would like to acknowledge previous and ongoing funding from EPA, Marine Institute, Geological Survey Ireland, OPW, Climate Action Regional Office and Kerry County Council.
The author would like to acknowledge his colleagues in NUI Galway who have contributed to his research programmes in various capacities, especially Dr. Kevin Lynch (Geography) for insightful discussions on coastal NbS and fostering a very successful partnership with CARO.
The author would like to acknowledge the tremendous work of the Maharees Conservation Association in Co. Kerry. This community is providing roadmaps for researchers, local authorities, research agencies and communities to implement community-led actions.
The author would like to acknowledge funding from the EPA and Marine Institute (‘Building coastal and marine resilience in Ireland’, 2019-2021) in collaboration with MaREI (Dr Martin LeTissier; Dr Ann Marie O’Hagan; Dr Glen Smith).