a man lights a fire with a drip torch
Prescribed Fire Lighting fire with a drip torch. © Jason Houston

Stories in Missouri

Nature-Based Solutions

Across The Nature Conservancy and here in Missouri, we are focused on incorporating nature-based solutions to adapt to a changing world for the benefit of nature and people. But, what exactly are nature-based solutions and how are they being implemented here in Missouri?

Nature-based solutions refer to the sustainable management and use of nature for tackling challenges such as climate change, water and food security, biodiversity protection, human health, and disaster risk management. They provide a number of co-benefits for people and nature – notably, capturing and storing CO2 emissions and reducing the impacts of climate change (including droughts, floods, fires, and land erosion). They also preserve plant and animal biodiversity and build more resilient and healthy communities by protecting fisheries and improving farmland.

Through a collaborative partnership, The Nature Conservancy helped establish Naturally Resilient Communities, which includes over 50 solutions and case studies that can help communities become more resilient to flooding and erosion. It’s a great resource allowing you filter by cost, region, hazard, and more. 

Naturally Resilient Communities is a partnership of the American Planning Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Association of State Floodplain Managers, the National Association of Counties and The Nature Conservancy and made possible with support from the Kresge Foundation.

So, what are some examples of nature-based solutions in Missouri?

a man lights a fire line along a gravel road
Prescribed burn in Missouri A member of The Nature Conservancy’s fire team employs a prescribed burn, an important tool used in sustainable forest management. © Tom Fielden

Prescribed fire is used on Conservancy preserves across the state – targeting a goal of 3,000 to 5,000 acres burned annually. But why is fire important and what is the Conservancy doing to transform the way fire is used as a management tool?

Tom Fielden, the Conservancy’s Land Stewardship and Fire Manager in Missouri, has been working in prescribed and wildland fire since 1986 and serves on the board of the Missouri Prescribed Fire Council. “Prescribed burns optimize plant growth by returning nutrients to the soil- often generating new growth within a couple weeks. This fast-moving and lower intensity burn leaves root systems alive under the soil and restores a process that many of our landscapes need for overall health,” said Fielden.

“Working with private landowners and partners is where we often see the greatest impact,” said Fielden. The Conservancy partners with state and federal agencies throughout Missouri on cooperative burns and works with private landowners to expand the use of this critical management tool beyond the boundaries of our own preserves.

willow stakes and vegetation grow on the streambank
Elk River Project Vegetation begins to grow on a newly constructed streambank on the Elk River. © Kristy Stoyer/TNC

Around the state, the Conservancy is working with private landowners, state and federal agencies, and academic institutions to transform the way we secure eroding streambanks – reducing harmful sediment and nutrients into the water. A recently completed project at LaBarque Creek, just west of St. Louis is helping to protect the most biologically diverse creek that flows into the Meramec River, which provides drinking water to over 70,000 households.

A similar project broke ground in late 2017, which will secure over 1,600 feet of severely eroding streambank along the Elk River in southwest Missouri. Both the LaBarque Creek and Elk River streambank stabilization projects will serve as demonstration sites for partners, agencies and other stakeholders to help transform the way we manage our natural resources. These projects demonstrated how engineering principles and science can be used to secure our rivers and streams with benefits to both people and nature.