Reviewing the state of the evidence base for using ecosystems to help people adapt to climate change impacts

15th February 2013

Planning how to adapt to a changing climate is going to be increasingly essential. A CCI-funded project has brought together examples of “Ecosystem-based approaches for adaptation” that use biodiversity and ecosystems to help people to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change, and has identified gaps where further evidence is needed.

To be successful, these solutions need to take into account the many social, economic and cultural co-benefits that ecosystems provide for local communities. There are individual examples of successful projects, such as conserving forests, restoring absorbent wetlands or sustainably managing barrier mangrove forests to regulate mudslides, counter flash floods and safeguards against cyclones. However, Robert Munroe, Climate Change Officer at BirdLife International says that: “To date, insight into these approaches has often been based on reports from isolated, anecdotal case studies, and dispersed across a wide variety of academic disciplines”.

To fill this gap, Robert has been leading a project funded by the CCI Collaborative Fund for Conservation to bring together the existing evidence for ecosystem-based approaches for adaptation. The project team first systematically assembled papers and reports in this area. To capture as many as possible, these were drawn from a broad range of fields from natural resource management to disaster risk reduction and agroecology. Over 160 studies were then brought together to produce a summary of the evidence base that is available on such approaches and of the knowledge gaps that need to be addressed to support policy makers.

The methods the team used are based on the systematic review approach developed by The Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation (CEBC). Details of the methodology used in this study were recently published in the open-access journal Environmental Evidence and can be accessed here:   

“This project will guide future research in this expanding field and ultimately help decision makers to make an informed choice about what measures to take when they are preparing their national adaptation strategy”, Robert added. The complete results from the study is currently under review and will be uploaded on the CCI website when it becomes available. A brief summary of the project results can be found here.

The CCI project page also contains links to presentations the project team gave about the project at the Durban Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP17) in November/December 2011. A number of outputs have also been produced for the Ecosystems and Livelihoods Adaptation Network (ELAN).