press release
Published: 05 May 2020

Open-Air Laboratories for kickstarting nature-based solutions could help communities fight against natural disasters

The public and private sector will not be enough to combat the devastation caused by natural hazards, citizens will also need to play their part, says one of the country’s most renowned air pollution experts from the University of Surrey.


Hydro-meteorological hazards (HMHs) such as floods, droughts, and landslides were responsible for more than $502b worth of economic damage and caused more than 90,000 deaths in Europe between 1980 until 2017. Future projections indicate that the economic loss in Europe is expected to increase from the current $14.4b  per year to nearly $88.8b  per year by the end of the 21st century.

In a study published by Science of the Total Environment, a team from Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE) collaborated with 31 experts from Ireland, Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Austria, Slovakia, UK and Finland to conduct a comprehensive review of published evidence to determine the design and operationalisation process of nature-based solutions (NBS) in practice to combat the destruction caused by HMHs.

The study brings together experts from science, policy and practice to provide an overview of our current state of knowledge on the effectiveness and implementation of NBS for HMHs management and co-benefits in rural and natural territories. 

In the paper, the team promote the use of Open-Air Laboratories, a concept already being adopted in places, such as Germany and Italy, as a part of the OPERANDUM project, as forums for public and private sector organisations to join together with the wider public to co-create, upscale, replicate, monitor and evaluate the performance of NBS to localised frequent issues with HMHs.

The team noted that by including businesses, politicians and public from the very onset of projects to develop green solutions key challenges hindering the progress of the project – financial, political and lack of collaboration – can be mitigated .

Professor Prashant Kumar, the lead author and the Founding Director of GCARE at the University of Surrey, said: “Natural hazards have caused an unspeakable amount of devastation across the world and, as we all come to terms with the climate change emergency, it is only right we begin to consider the best way to minimise the harm these events cause.”

“In this collaborative study we focus on operationalisation and implementation processes of nature-based solutions, employing a novel concept of Open Air Laboratories to secure wider acceptance. We pinpoint how communities can get green projects and solutions up and running – and importantly, how to share the outcome of those projects in a transparent way that helps others across the planet."


Kumar, P., Debele, S. E., Sahani, J., Aragão, L., Barisani, F., Basu, B., Bucchignani, E., Charizopoulos, N., Di Sabatino, S., Domeneghetti, A., Edo, A. S., Finér, L., Gallotti, G., Juch, S., Leo, L. S., Loupis, M., Mickovski, S. B., Panga, D., Pavlova, I., Pilla, F., Prats, A. L., Renaud, F. G., Rutzinger, M., Sarkar, A., Shah, M. A. R., Soini, K., Stefanopoulou, M., Toth, E., Ukonmaanaho, L., Vranic, S., Zieher, T., 2020. Towards an operationalisation of nature-based solutions for natural hazards. Science of the Total Environment. Free download link:

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