Nature-Based Solutions

Natural & Nature-Based Features (NNBFs)

Coastal forests, wetlands, beaches, and living shorelines provide multiple benefits for coastal communities, including storm protection, soaking up floodwaters, improving water quality, providing recreation areas and maintaining important habitats.  Protected and restored natural features can also reduce the cost of flood insurance.

  • Natural Features evolve over time through processes operating in nature
  • Nature-Based Features are created by human design, engineering and construction for specific services such as coastal hazard risk reduction
Multiple Benefits
Flood risk reduction for coastal buildings — Natural features intercept and reduce the energy of rainfall, storm surge and tidal flooding.  Floodwaters are stored and slowly released by trees and wetlands.  
Flood insurance — Protecting and restoring natural features can earn credits for reduced insurance premiums through the National Flood Insurance Program's Community Rating System.
Water quality improvement — Forests, trees, and wetlands effectively filter air pollution and remove excess nitrogen and phosphorus, and also capture sediment in stormwater runoff and tidal floodwaters.
Floodplain restoration — Natural floodplains store floodwaters, filter pollution, and provide habitat. Floodplain restoration reestablishes a more natural hydrologic regime that connects wetlands, waterways and adjacent land.
Coastal Virginia NNBF Fact Sheets (pdf)

Pursuing natural and nature-based features not only benefits the environment and your community, but can also be beneficial for meeting requirements connected to government programs like achieving a regulatory goal and reducing costs.

Each fact sheet provides really useful information on each of these features:
  • Description of the natural feature
  • Identification of the benefits provided by it
  • Tips on how to restore the natural features
  • Links to additional resources
  • Information about earning credits towards various government programs
Natural Features
Forests & Trees Upland areas covered by trees greater than 20 feet tall 
Scrub-Shrub Upland areas covered by woody vegetation less than 20 feet tall
Beaches & Dunes — Sandy areas next to tidal waters
Forested Wetlands Tidal and non-tidal wetlands covered by trees greater than 20 feet tall
Scrub-Shrub WetlandsNon-tidal wetland areas covered by woody vegetation less than 20 feet tall
Non-Tidal MarshNon-tidal wetland area covered by herbaceous plants
Tidal Marsh Wetland area in tidal waters covered by herbaceous plants or shrubs
Nature-Based Features: Hybrid Living Shorelines
Marsh Sills Low-profile stone structures to maintain tidal marshes
Offshore BreakwatersLarge gapped structures offshore to maintain beaches & dunes
Oyster Sills Low-profile reef structures for wave attenuation
NNBF Related Maps

View natural and nature-based features in the AdaptVA Interactive Map.  See how to find these NNBFs and other related map layers under each main category in the map viewer here.  Additional information about each map layer can be found in the interactive map:

Natural Resources
  • Natural and Nature-Based Features (NNBFs) less than 10 feet land elevation includes features with the greatest benefits for tidal flooding mitigation due to their low-elevation locations.
Protection/Restoration Opportunities
  • Lands for Protection > Coastal NNBFs Ranked according to benefits for coastal buildings includes low-elevation NNBFs ranked by the amount of benefits provided to coastal buildings and localities.


  • Restoration Opportunities > Target Areas: Create/Restore shoreline NNBFs to benefit coastal buildings includes target areas on the shoreline for future NNBF creation or enhancement near vulnerable buildings without existing benefits.
Shoreline Management
  • Resource Protection Area (RPA) 100-ft Buffer for Chesapeake Bay map layer depicts a 100-ft wide buffer landward from Resource Protection Area features in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

  • Infrastructure at less than 10 feet land elevation > Critical Facilities & Coastal Buildings

    includes buildings at greatest risk to tidal flooding due to their low-elevation locations.

Coastal Locality Resilience Summaries

Localities need supporting information to keep the public engaged with coastal resilience measures and programs.  The relationships between natural features and coastal buildings most vulnerable to tidal flooding can be described with simple summary statistics.

A summary for each coastal Virginia locality highlights:
  • Natural and nature-based features identified in that locality below 10-feet land elevation
  • Benefits of protecting and increasing NNBFs
  • Information about what’s at risk
Locality Summary Reports

* Incorporated towns are included in the closest City or County summary.  Contact us if you cannot locate information for your coastal locality.

NNBF Data Downloads

GIS data related to natural and nature-based features is available for downloading. See more information about each dataset in the data abstracts: