River delta surrounded by farmland and homes. River delta surrounded by farmland and homes.

Nature-Based Future Challenges

Scientific Program Director Contact

Dr. John Reich

Development Contact

Lauren Hershey

About the Nature-Based Future Challenges

Climate change, loss of biodiversity and food insecurity are threats to the global food supply that require pioneering, science-based solutions.

The Nature-based Future Student Challenges program (the Challenges) aims to mitigate climate change effects in delta regions, which are critical for food production. Nature-based solutions leverage the functions of ecosystems to benefit society and address environmental and public health issues such as climate change and flood risk. For example:

  • Creating green roofs and walls in cities to help moderate the impacts of heatwaves by removing heat from the air, help reduce pollution and retain storm waters, which helps reduce flood risks
  • Planting oyster gardens in harbors and other waterways harnessing oysters’ innate ability to clean water by filtering algae, removing excess nitrogen and consuming pollutants.
  • Protecting and creating dunes at the edge of a beach can protect coastal communities by protecting from high waves and storm surges, reducing coastal flooding, while providing important ecogolocial habitats.

Nature-based solutions can sustainably manage and improve effects of climate change. These solution work with the environment, are more cost-effective than traditional interventions and provide economic growth and improved public health.

Climate change can disrupt food availability and food system resources. Nature-based solutions can help mitigate these effects, further protecting global food security by working with nature to improve water availability, protect agricultural lands and improve agricultural productivity.

The Challenges are engaging stakeholders and students to visualize and move society towards nature-inclusive practices by designing and visualizing a nature-based future that is people-centric and place-based. Students will develop maps that illustrate the nature-based future, showing anticipated and potential impacts in the next five to ten years.

The Challenges are preparing the next generation of leaders to harness the potential of nature-based solutions through three editions of the Challenges:

  1. Delta-focused in Bangladesh;
  2. Delta-focused in the Mississippi Delta region;
  3. Localized focus throughout Africa.

The Challenges will run from 2023 through 2026. For more information about the Challenges, upcoming events and the open application details, visit the WUR Nature-based Futures Challenges page.


Bangladesh Year

Team Delta Harmonics received a first prize award for their roadmap to addressing groundwater depletion through widespread watershed regeneration.

Team DeltaGo! received a second-prize award for their roadmap addressing climate impacts in coastal communities that is currently causing these communities to migrate to urban centers. Their research is based on a Multifunctional Sustainable Agroecology Zones for Coastal Livelihoods (MOSAIC) zoning scheme that uses nature-based solution to alleviate storm surge and sea level rise.

Team Deltability received a third-prize award for their roadmap to address specific climate changes currently hindering an interconnected, climate-resilient region in Bangladesh, where the natural ecosystem sustains food production and clean water availability.

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