Ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation: strengthening the evidence and informing policy - Research results from the Ecosystems Protecting Infrastructure and Communities project, Chile


Hannah Reid and Karen Podvin


Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) is the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall strategy to help people to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. Under the ‘Ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation: strengthening the evidence and informing policy’ project, IIED, IUCN and the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) are working at 13 sites in 12 countries to gather practical evidence and develop policy guidance for governments on how EbA can best be implemented. The project has developed a definition of effective EbA and a framework for assessing EbA effectiveness which has been applied at all 13 sites and the results will be collated and compared to draw conclusions that are based on more than single case studies. This report presents the findings from a literature review, and interviews and focus groups discussions with a wide variety of stakeholders conducted by IUCN at the project site in Chile, where communities in a biosphere reserve were shown how healthy forest ecosystems can play a crucial role in protecting infrastructure and the communities themselves from avalanche and landslide hazards.

It concludes that, although the project did not implement specific EbA measures on the ground, it has provided communities with a base for reducing their vulnerability to disaster and potentially also climate change risks in the area, along with other welfare-enhancing co-benefits. However, there may be trade-offs in the future in terms of who benefits from reforestation or forest protection. Related studies suggest that the protective role played by healthy forests in mountain ecosystems can lead to economic savings, but here again there may be trade-offs in terms of reductions in ski areas and income from tourism. Chile benefits from strong government institutions and a supportive national policy environment for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and adaptation initiatives, meaning that benefits from the project are likely to be sustainable over the long term. Key barriers to implementing further Eco-DRR and EbA initiatives, however, relate to the availability of relevant knowledge, capacity and technical skills, and the challenges of cross-sectoral institutional collaboration and accessing funds.