Trevor Sandwith — our team lead on adaptation at the ongoing international climate change discussions in Bonn — has penned a blog post on about a concept gaining momentum here called an ecosystem-based approach to adaptation. He says:

It comes down to one basic principle everyone seems to agree on: ensuring that the world’s natural resources are healthy and strong enough to survive the impact of climate change and can continue to provide the food, water, shelter and income we all rely upon for survival.

While there may be times when hard infrastructure is necessary, the expert group said that ecosystem-based adaptation is often more cost effective and more accessible to rural and poor communities than man-made infrastructure and engineering.

Unlike sea walls and levees, the experts said, using natural resources to combat climate impacts has the added benefits of supporting economies, promoting biodiversity, maintaining food and water supplies and providing other services such as eco-tourism and productive fisheries that contribute to sustainable livelihoods.

Ecosystem-based adaptation harnesses the power of nature to help human communities adapt to climate change. Strategies can include such things as protecting mangroves to shield communities and infrastructure against storm surges, ensuring forest systems stay healthy to provide clean drinking water or connecting fragmented lands to allow plants and animals to migrate away from areas impacted by climate change. These services provided free by nature would be extremely costly to replace, even if it were possible to do so.

Go to Grist to find out how conservation, restoration and management of our natural resources can help vulnerable communities face climate change. Or read more about the Nature Conservancy’s work on adaptation.

(Image: Mangrove knees. Credit: Ami Vitale.)

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