Share Your Tool
What is Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA)?
“Ecosystem-based adaptation is the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation strategy to help people to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change.” - Convention on Biological Diversity’s Second Ad-hoc Technical Expert Group on Biodiversity and Climate Change
EbA offers a valuable yet under-utilized approach for climate change adaptation, complementing traditional actions such as climate proofing infrastructure development. The EbA approach uses sustainable management, conservation, and restoration of ecosystems as part of an overall adaptation strategy to increase natural resilience and reduces the vulnerability of people, their livelihoods and nature in the face of climate change.
Why “ecosystem-based” adaptation?
Global climate change is already adversely impacting the world’s ecosystems and the people that depend on them. Impacts are escalating as temperature and precipitation patterns change and extreme weather events and related conditions increase in frequency and intensity. Climate change directly threatens the services that ecosystems provide including food, clean water, coastal protection, fuel-wood, soil stability, and pollination. People who depend directly on natural resources are affected most severely.
While global efforts to mitigate the causes of climate change are currently under way, adaptation is about “managing the unavoidable” – addressing the impacts that are already being experienced by people and ecosystems while mitigation measures take effect, and building resilience to future impacts. Ecosystem-based adaptation provides a cost-effective mean of adaptation; is especially effective at local levels with community involvement; is readily available to the rural poor; builds on the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities; can generate social, economic and cultural co-benefits; and contributes to the conservation of biodiversity. In addition, healthy, well managed ecosystems have climate change mitigation potential, for example, through the sequestration and storage of carbon in healthy forests, wetlands, and coastal ecosystems.
What is involved in EbA?
Ecosystem-based adaptation involves collective action among governments, communities, conservation and development organizations, and other stakeholders to plan and empower local action that will increase environmental and community resilience to the changing climate. Ecosystem-based adaptation and community-based adaptation are therefore mutually supportive. Examples of ecosystem-based adaptation that provide multiple benefits to local communities include:
- Maintaining and restoring “natural infrastructure” such as mangroves, coral reefs and watershed vegetation as a cost-effective means for reducing vulnerability to storm surge, rising sea levels and changing precipitation patterns. Mangroves and wetlands can form physical barriers against extreme weather and help to regulate floods. These natural buffers are often less expensive to maintain and in certain cases, can be as effective as built structures such as dykes or concrete walls.
- Managing agricultural land using local knowledge of crop varieties and maintaining diverse landscapes. This can help ensure food supplies in uncertain conditions.
References: IUCN - Ecosystem-based Adaptation, IUCN - Ecosystem-based Adaptation: UNFCCC Climate Talk, UNEP - Building Resilience of Ecosystems for Adaptation, UNFCCC - Ecosystem-based Adaptation: An approach for building resilience and reducing risk for local communities and ecosystems