In 1972, at the first world conference to primarily focus on the environment, there was a realization that nature and society are inextricably intertwined, yet too often considered separate, or even opposing, targets. Fifty years later, nature continues to be considered alongside the economy, rather than fully recognizing its role in underpinning our economic systems and well-being. 

The framing of nature as separate from culture impacts our notion of landscapes and the functions, infrastructures and activities deemed appropriate within these, where natural landscapes are associated with nature conservation, and the built environment with human activity. It has also impacted our monitoring systems which are largely framed around indicators and decisions that focus predominantly on either ecosystems or humans, and that overlook their interdependence. Meanwhile, we remain a long way from achieving our global targets for biodiversity conservation and human well-being. Bridging the naturesociety dichotomy becomes increasingly urgent as it becomes progressively less likely that societies will be able to otherwise mitigate and adapt to changes brought about by biodiversity loss and climate change, and costlier to do so.

Barquet and Green argue that multifunctionality is not only fundamental for adaptation, but a way to reconcile questions of social equity with biodiversity and environmental goals. They build on global experiences with nature-based solutions to identify three major roadblocks hindering current adaptation approaches and outline five leverage realms for moving towards multifunctionality.

This paper is part of a series that supports the Stockholm+50: Unlocking a better future report.