Ecosystem-based Adaptation to Climate Change
Our solutions are in nature
Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) to climate change defined as:
‘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. (…) It aims to maintain and increase the resilience and reduce the vulnerability of ecosystems and people in the face of the adverse effects of climate change’.
(Source: SCBD, 2009:41)
EbA to climate change is an approach to conserve existing functional ecosystems, reduce human stress on ecosystems, and restore ecological structures and processes to increase overall system functionality and health. Thus, in times of accelerating anthropogenic climate change and more and more devastating impacts, it aims at protecting human lives, livelihood, and wellbeing by conserving and restoring fundamental ecological functions.
The EbA approach is at the interface of sustainable development targets by reducing and buffering climate change impacts, conserving and restoring biodiversity and ecosystem functions, and thus safeguarding and enabling socio-economic benefits on local scale.
Because of its multiple-benefit and no-regret character, Ecosystem-based Adaptation must become a central pillar of human-nature interactions in times of climate change, promoting nature conservation and holistic ecosystem management. Absolute priority must be given to such measures as water retention, cooling and buffering of microclimatic fluctuations, and slowing down or stopping drying winds. These measures will lead to success if they are accompanied by an increase of biomass in near‐natural vegetation in the landscape, soil care, and humus formation.
Humanity has not yet succeeded in changing its economic and lifestyle patterns to achieve emission reduction and more absorption of CO2 even partially. In the last decade it became obvious that the goal of preventing climate change is no longer sufficient. We are experiencing climate change and we need to adapt to it. Thus, both objectives – climate change mitigation and adaptation – should simultaneously be pursued.
Adaptation is the process of adjusting to a current or expected changed condition, e.g. climate and its effects. People and nature have been adapting to the variability of climate for millions of years, but current rapid changes seem to outpace their coping mechanisms.
The creation of protective structures, such as dikes or water collection basins may seem plausible. However, these "hard" or "grey" measures often involve excessively high financial and ecological costs. Thus, such measures are riskier and involve more potential regret. An ecosystem-based "green" approach, on the other hand, uses the natural properties and processes of ecosystems by protecting, sustainably managing, or restoring them. These measures are significantly less expensive and, in the best case, more effective than "grey" measures, since strengthening ecosystems simultaneously promotes a greater number of ecosystem services.
By this, EbA efforts help safeguard ecosystem services, especially the regulating services such as climate regulation (e.g. cooling) and erosion and flood control (by water retention). Ecosystem services also include provisioning and cultural benefits, vital for human well-being. These efforts are often highly synergetic with ecosystem-based mitigation (e.g. carbon sequestration) efforts in the fields of forestry, agriculture, wetland management, and other types of land use and natural resource management.