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Ecosystem-Based Adaptation: A Natural Response To Climate Change

A. Colls, N. Ash, and N. Ikkala
Created: 12/29/2009 - Updated: 3/14/2019


Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) integrates the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services into an overall strategy to help people adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. It includes the sustainable management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems to provide services that help people adapt to both current climate variability, and climate change. Ecosystem-based Adaptation contributes to reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience to both climate and non-climate risks and provides multiple benefits to society and the environment.

Many recent climate change adaptation initiatives have focused on the use of technologies and the design of climateresilient infrastructure. However, there is growing recognition of the role healthy ecosystems can play in helping people adapt to climate change. Healthy ecosystems provide drinking water, habitat, shelter, food, raw materials, genetic materials, a barrier against disasters, a source of natural resources, and many other ecosystem services on which people depend for their livelihoods. As natural buffers, ecosystems are often cheaper to maintain, and often more effective, than physical engineering structures, such as dykes or concrete walls. Ecosystem-based Adaptation, therefore, offers a means of adaptation that is readily available to the rural poor; it can be readily integrated into community-based adaptation and addresses many of the concerns and priorities identified by the most vulnerable countries and people. In addition, healthy ecosystems, such as forests, wetlands, mangroves, and coral reefs, have a greater potential to adapt to climate change themselves, and recover more easily from extreme weather events.

Ecosystem-based Adaptation involves a wide range of ecosystem management activities to increase resilience and reduce the vulnerability of people and the environment to climate change. These activities include:

  • Sustainable water management, where river basins, aquifers, flood plains, and their associated vegetation are managed to provide water storage and flood regulation services;
  • Disaster risk reduction, where restoration of coastal habitats such as mangroves can be a particularly effective measure against storm-surges, saline intrusion and coastal erosion;
  • Sustainable management of grasslands and rangelands, to enhance pastoral livelihoods and increase resilience to drought and flooding;
  • Establishment of diverse agricultural systems, where using indigenous knowledge of specific crop and livestock varieties, maintaining genetic diversity of crops and livestock, and conserving diverse agricultural landscapes secures food provision in changing local climatic conditions;
  • Strategic management of shrublands and forests to limit the frequency and size of uncontrolled forest fires; and
  • Establishing and effectively managing protected area systems to ensure the continued delivery of ecosystem services that increase resilience to climate change.

This report presents 10 examples of Ecosystem-based Adaptation taking place in both developing and developed countries, at national, regional, and local scales, and in marine, terrestrial, and freshwater environments. The case studies demonstrate how Ecosystem-based Adaptation is being implemented at project and programmatic levels.

Published On

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Sector Addressed: 
Conservation / Restoration
Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate climate-smart guidelines into restoration
Incorporate future conditions into natural resources planning and policies