Sustainable Cities in China: Urban wetlands as nature-based solutions

Earthwatch Institute
Published: 15 October 2020
Last edited: 05 November 2020
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Urban wetlands can benefit local populations through improved water quality, biodiversity, air quality and microclimate (cooling). However, there is a lack of information on how best to manage multi-use wetlands to maximise their role as nature-based solutions. The Earthwatch Institute is working with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and WWF China to investigate best practice for wetland management for agriculture, tourism and conservation, with respect to the benefits they provide. Different land management approaches are being compared in two major wetlands near Shanghai and Guangzhou to improve understandings on the best management practices, as well as to identify how wetlands can help mitigate the adverse effects of land-use change and climate change.


East Asia
Scale of implementation
Freshwater ecosystems
River, stream
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Cities and infrastructure
Disaster risk reduction
Science and research
Erratic rainfall
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Sustainable development goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 8: Pollution reduced
Target 11: Protected areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


China | Shanghai, Guangzhou


Preliminary results, including the data acquired by citizen scientists, indicate that different wetland managements have different retention capacities regarding dissolved nutrients and suspended sediment. This project compared the remediation capacity of natural (unmanaged) wetlands to wetlands managed for agriculture and tourism. All three types of wetlands showed benefits to downstream water quality, though natural wetlands performed best in terms of removing nutrients and suspended sediments. This research aims to provide new insights into the long-term management of urban wetlands in their role as nature-based solutions, as well as look at the impacts of different land uses around them. Research results will be published for the international scientific community and be used to provide vital recommendations to local governments, policymakers and urban planners. Urban wetlands and lakes offer a cost-effective and sustainable option to help process polluted air, reduce the temperature within cities and allow surface water runoff and filtration, whilst allowing for ecosystems to flourish in urban environments.

Contributed by

Matthew Koehorst Greenpop, IUCN Urban Alliance

Other contributors

Earthwatch Europe