Ecological engineering is an established discipline that focuses on the design that exploits ecological elements and ecosystems for the benefit of both humans and nature. The existential threat of climate change and the unsustainable use of resources indicate nowadays that we urgently need new approaches to deal with these challenges. As we are seeking for truly sustainable solutions, we look back to the inherent value of nature to get inspired and develop a new design paradigm. Ecological engineering is today redefined and emerges as a pivotal approach in addressing contemporary environmental challenges and promoting sustainable development. It integrates principles from ecology, engineering, and design to create harmonious interactions between human activities and natural systems forming a new, holistic approach for problem-solving. The critical step of this new approach is the adoption of systems thinking and of circularity in problem-solving methodology towards re-establishing material cycles to deal with resource scarcity and expanding the nature-based toolbox using ecosystem services and renewable resources. The goal of this session is to discuss and analyze these key concepts, benefits, and applications of modern ecological engineering.
Ecological engineering can provide integrated solutions and sustainable alternatives to conventional engineering practices that are based on ecological processes and elements. The emphasis on working with nature, rather than against it, represents a paradigm shift that encourages innovative problem-solving. These approaches yield co-benefits, such as increased biodiversity, enhanced ecosystem services, and improved social cohesion.
Nature-based solutions and nature-based inspiration are integral components of the modern approach to environmental management and sustainable development. These approaches hold promise for addressing complex challenges while promoting the conservation and restoration of natural systems and cycles. As the global community strives to find holistic solutions to pressing ecological and societal issues, the principles of ecological engineering provide valuable pathways to re-balance the relationship between human activities and the environment.