ORANJESTAD | As the world witnesses and experiences the impacts of climate change, turning to nature could be a pragmatic way to adapt. The Dutch Caribbean, with a human population of less than 340,000 and a land area of just 800 square kilometers, may be tiny, remote, and easily overlooked. However, their natural heritage is rich and extraordinarily diverse. The islands Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, and Saba stand out as the most significant ‘hotspot’ for biodiversity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Recently, on November 10th, the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) gathered environmental stewards at the University of Aruba for the “Nature-Based Solution for Ecosystem Restoration” symposium. Organized by the DCNA in collaboration with the ‘Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba’ (FPNA), both non-profit organizations advocating nature conservation, the event had the distinct honor of hosting Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix, accompanying dignitaries including the Governor of Aruba, the Prime Minister of Aruba and the Minister of Nature for Aruba, delegates from the DCNA, FPNA, valued nature partners and other stakeholders.
Nature-Based Solutions as an Approach for Mitigating Environmental Risks
Amid the global conversation on climate change, there is an increasing interest in Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) as a strategy to mitigate various environmental risks, from flooding to landslides. NBS is an innovative approach that leans on sustainable management of both natural and modified ecosystems. This approach, recognized by the European Commission as actions “inspired by, supported by, or copied from nature”, addresses numerous societal challenges and paves the way for benefits for both people and the environment. These solutions promise not just ecological stability but also broader societal advantages, including economic growth and enhanced public health. As more entities recognize the importance of harmonizing ecosystem health, climate action, and sustainable development, NBS has found its place in major global policy conversations, including the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda 2030.
The symposium served as a platform for experts to introduce and discuss the concept of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) and delve into topics including the theoretical background of NBS, conservation challenges and opportunities on islands, funding mechanisms for NBS, and establishing collaborative frameworks for NBS partnerships. The insightful symposium concluded with a discussion on the need for NBS implementation and insights drawn from real-world case studies.
The director of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, Arno Verhoeven, highlighted how the living environment on our islands crucially depends on our unique ecosystems. “Going for Nature-Based Solutions should be the priority when facing the many challenges that threaten our habitat. We believe that by bringing together stakeholders, strengthening the Dutch Caribbean network, and thus facilitating knowledge, expertise, and resource exchange, we can take steps to further implement NBS to safeguard our valuable ecosystems. This symposium is a step in that direction”, Verhoeven stated.
During the presentation of FPNA, Chief Conservation Officer, Mrs. Natasha Silva, explained more about the extinct species in Aruba and the critical need for conservation efforts. She emphasized the importance of preserving Aruba’s unique biodiversity and highlighted nature-based solutions as key strategies for conservation, including restoring natural habitats to support wildlife, implementing sustainable land use practices to prevent habitat loss, and establishing protected areas to conserve critical ecosystems. Mrs. Silva also underscored the important role of community engagement in conservation initiatives. Emphasizing this point, Mrs. Silva stated, “Focus on the priority with the biggest effect. The more people become aware, the more we allow ourselves to have this dialogue about conservation.”
As the Dutch Caribbean islands confront unique ecological vulnerabilities – balancing the rich biodiversity with threats from human activities and climate change – the importance of these Nature-Based Solutions cannot be overstated. The main takeaway highlights the necessity for local adaptation and implementation of these solutions requiring collective efforts, coordination, and knowledge exchange among various stakeholders to ensure a sustainable future for the Dutch Caribbean and beyond.
DCNA extended its gratitude toward the sponsors; Milton Harms Fonds in collaboration with Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Caribisch Gebied, Aruba Tourism Authority, VNO Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties, Grant Thornton, Dutch Postcode Lottery and Pelican Adventure for contributing to the symposium and supporting an environment of collaboration and progress, exemplifying the power of partnership in driving positive ecological chang