Strategic Options for Adapting Biodiversity Management to Climate Change

Created: 6/05/2013 -


Climate change threatens biodiversity and its role in supporting human development around the world. It is vital that policymakers act to strengthen the resilience of ecosystems to climate change in order to respond to this threat. This paper and the accompanying Legal and Policy Tools to Adapt Biodiversity Management to Climate Change: A Resource Manual provide a menu of solutions for doing so. Using the principles of adaptive, ecosystem-based management, policymakers can implement innovative legal and policy frameworks to ensure sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity in the face of climate change. This paper sets forth (1) the need to adapt biodiversity management to climate change; (2) the process of adaptive management that may be applied to natural resources; and (3) options for using legal and policy tools to manage biodiversity in a changing climate.

 Key Messages

  1. Greater commitments of financial and human resources are critical to defending biodiversity in the face of climate change. This is an investment with long-term payoffs, because only management that considers climate change impacts (the adaptive approach) will allocate resources where they will be most effective and ensure that ecosystems continue to provide goods and services that support healthy economies. Management that fails to consider climate change (the status quo) will lead to biodiversity die-off and economic losses. Thus, failing to act is itself an action that will produce negative consequences.
  2. Adaptive, ecosystem-based management provides a model to respond to climate threats despite scientific uncertainty. It manages biodiversity in a changing environment through decision making based on planning, monitoring, information sharing, coordination, and community involvement. Adaptive management can be employed in the areas of resource-use permitting, protected areas, private conservation, and communal resources, among others.
  3. Clear rules and procedures for adaptive management allow flexibility without sacrificing accountability. Within a legal framework that includes oversight and strong public participation, adaptive management is more rigorous than conventional management approaches because it requires officials and stakeholders to periodically update their understanding of the ecosystem and take action on emerging threats.
  4. In many cases, existing laws and policies can be used to undertake adaptive biodiversity management. Clarifying the scope of existing authorities through regulatory changes and guidance materials and adapting existing institutions to new tasks is an urgent adaptation priority for all governments. Rewriting laws and creating new policies may be necessary, however, in some contexts. 

Published On


Sector Addressed
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Create new refugia / Increase size and amount of protected areas
Capacity Building
Design or reform institutions
Create new institutions
Increase organizational capacity
Coordinate planning and management
Governance and Policy
Create new or enhance existing policies or regulations
Develop / implement adaptive management strategies