Innovation in Climate Adaptation Harnessing Innovation for Effective Biodiversity and Ecosystem Adaptation

Bruce A. Stein, Janet. A. Cushing, Stephen T. Jackson, Molly Cross, Wendy Foden, Lauren M. Hallett, Shannon M. Hagerman, Lara J. Hansen, Jessica J. Hellmann, Dawn Magness, et al.
Posted on: 1/19/2024 - Updated on: 1/19/2024

Posted by




Climate change poses growing risks to species, ecosystems, and people, and is challenging many of the assumptions that underpin modern conservation practice. As a result, there is an urgent need to not only center climate adaptation in conservation policy and practice, but for adaptation responses to be bolder and more innovative. Innovation in Climate Adaptation is designed to address this need by promoting creativity and innovation in the practice of climate adaptation for biodiversity and ecosystem conservation.

Innovation in Climate Adaptation is a collaboration among National Wildlife Federation, the US Geological Survey Climate Adaptation Science Center Network, and the IUCN Species Survival Commission Climate Change Specialist Group, and was produced by an international workgroup of adaptation experts. The guide draws on lessons from other sectors—including business and technology—to explore the theory and practice of innovation in the context of climate adaptation and natural resource management.

For purposes of this guide, innovation can be regarded as having three key attributes—novelty, value, and process—and can be defined as: Innovation is the process of creating value by developing and implementing novel solutions to climate adaptation challenges.

The guide builds on a conceptual framework for innovation development and implementation, referred to as the innovation lifecycle. This includes passage across the so-called “valley of death,” where promising innovations are at particular risk of neglect or abandonment. The guide explores many of the institutional, social, and technical barriers to innovation, and describes a set of enabling conditions that can help individuals and institutions overcome those hurdles.

Innovation is best supported by a dynamic interplay between imaginative and insightful individuals and supportive institutions that nurture and promote creativity and innovation. This interchange involves the adoption of an innovation mindset within individuals and the creation of an innovation culture within institutions. By exploring the concepts, conditions, and techniques for fostering creativity and innovation, it is our hope that this guide will enable and inspire the biodiversity conservation and natural resource management community to dramatically scale up its ambitions and capacity to carry out innovative and effective climate adaptation.


Stein, B. A., J. A. Cushing, S. T. Jackson, M. Cross, W. Foden, L. M. Hallett, S. M. Hagerman, L. J. Hansen, J. J. Hellmann, D. Magness, G. F. Mendoza, C. Newsome, A. Pathak, S. M. Prober, J. H. Reynolds, and E. S. Zavaleta. 2024. Innovation in Climate Adaptation: Harnessing Innovation for Effective Biodiversity and Ecosystem Adaptation. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation.

Affiliated Organizations

The National Wildlife Federation is America's largest conservation organization, with more than 6 million members supporters and an affiliate network in 52 states and territories. The National Wildlife Federation’s mission is to “unite all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world.”

The USGS is a science organization that provides impartial information on the health of our ecosystems and environment, the natural hazards that threaten us, the natural resources we rely on, the impacts of climate and land-use change, and the core science systems that help us provide timely, relevant, and useable information.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. It supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world and brings governments, non-government organizations, United Nations agencies, companies and local communities together to develop and implement policy, laws and best practice.

Related Resources