Putting climate change adaptation into conservation practice

Putting climate change adaptation into conservation practice

There is a clear and pressing need for a scientific assessment of the evidence about the effectiveness of climate change adaptation to help guide conservation policy and practice around the world. This needs to be supported by guidance about the use of specific interventions. At present, we do not understand the potential for adaptation to be effective in the face of increasing pressure from climate change, nor is the information available to help conservationists decide which adaptation measures will be most effective.

This project will address these needs by reviewing, synthesising and communicating the evidence from studies that have quantified and tested the effectiveness of different adaptation interventions to policy-makers, conservationists and practitioners. This will be achieved by building on the work of Conservation Evidence which maintains a database of over 250 journals and grey literature, and an active programme of summarising conservation interventions. Information within the existing database will be supported by additional literature searches to identify relevant non-experimental studies likely to have been omitted by the Conservation Evidence process, and to update some of the older assessments. New studies will be summarised to update the assessments available on the website that are relevant to climate change adaptation, so that the resulting information about their likely effectiveness can be made accessible to conservationists and practitioners. The final database of studies will be analysed to test the effectiveness of different climate change adaptation options to provide an overview of the evidence for their success. This will address both relatively high-level measures, such as increasing functional connectivity or reducing other threats, and more specific management responses. The resulting scientific output, based upon variation in the observed impacts of climate change so far, will identify the potential for adaptation to reduce negative climate change impacts, or to promote positive responses, as well as highlighting where more evidence is required.

Project Aims

Uncertainty about the success of different interventions for climate change adaptation is a barrier to effective practice by conservationists. With increasing evidence for climate change impacts, this project will review and publish the evidence about the effectiveness of different adaptation interventions, and disseminate that information as guidance to practitioners by:

  • Collating evidence on the effectiveness of climate change adaptation.
  • Providing assessments of interventions to the Conservation Evidence database
  • Testing whether interventions may successfully affect the impacts of climate change on biodiversity.

Key Activities

  • We will identify papers on climate change adaptation interventions from the Conservation Evidence database (http://www.conservationevidence.com/), complemented by further literature searches using key words to identify relevant non-experimental (e.g. correlative or modelling) studies not already covered.
  • Assessments of relevant new studies will be conducted following the well-established Conservation Evidence expert-based methodology, and added to the Conservation Evidence database 
  • The results of relevant studies will be used to model the probability of a statistically significant effect of adaptation being reported, accounting for various nuisance parameters and testing for variation between different adaptation approaches and contexts.
  • Policy-relevant outputs will be produced and disseminated.

Conservation Impact

This project will improve the likely effectiveness of climate change adaptation practice globally. Not only will the outputs be embedded within BirdLife and FFI work programmes, but will be communicated effectively to other CCI partners, and externally through the Conservation Evidence website.

Outside CCI, this project will deliver a component of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s (https://iucn-ccsg.org/ ) work programme to review evidence and guidance to inform adaptation. The SSC will provide a key route for the dissemination of peer-reviewed publications and policy-relevant outputs to the global conservation community.


  • New and updated assessments of interventions relevant to climate change adaptation will be made available through the Conservation Evidence website.
  • A peer-reviewed paper on the evidence to support the effectiveness of climate change adaptation. Given the lack of a published overview of this important topic, this has the potential to be a high impact and high profile output. 
  • A policy-relevant summary will be produced and disseminated to distil the headline results from the project with links to the Conservation Evidence assessments for more detailed information as required.

CCI partners Involved

Other Organisations Involved

University of Stellenbosch, South Africa


Banner image: Peter Iredale via Flickr creative commons
Thumbnail image: UN Photo/Martine Perret via Flickr creative commons

Related Blog Posts

Putting climate change adaptation into conservation practice: February 2019 blog entry

Putting climate change adaptation into conservation practice: February 2019 blog entry

The following blog is written by James Pearce-Higgins, Director of Science, BTO (project lead for the CCI Collaborative Fund project ‘Putting climate change adaptation into conservation practice’). Identifying relevant studies We have agreed a framework to identify relevant studies (see image, above). Studies have to include information about climate change impacts, either by documenting changes…