Ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation: strengthening the evidence and informing policy - Research results from the Supporting Counties in Kenya to Mainstream Climate Change in Development and Access Climate Finance project, Kenya


Hannah Reid and Victor Orindi


The global climate is changing rapidly, and as nations and the international and bilateral organisations and processes that support them plan how best to adapt to climate change, they need evidence on where to focus adaptation efforts and direct financial resources accordingly. The main approach to climate change adaptation to date has tended to involve investment in engineered interventions, such as sea walls or irrigation infrastructure (Jones et al. 2012). There is growing realisation, however, that ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) may sometimes provide the optimal adaptation solution, particularly for poorer countries where people are more dependent on natural resources for their lives and livelihoods. A growing number of organisations and countries are implementing EbA and integrating it into emerging climate change policy responses (Seddon et al. 2016a; 2016b).

EbA is defined by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as the “use of biodiversity and ecosystem services to help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change as part of an overall adaptation strategy” (CBD 2009). This definition was later elaborated by the CBD to include “sustainable management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems, as part of an overall adaptation strategy that takes into account the multiple social, economic and cultural co-benefits for local communities” (CBD 2010). Examples of EbA include: restoring coastal ecosystems to lower the energy of tropical storms and protect local communities against erosion and wave damage; wetland and floodplain management to prevent floods and to maintain water flow and water quality in the face of changing rainfall patterns; conservation and restoration of forests and natural vegetation to stabilise slopes and prevent landslides, and to regulate water flows preventing flash flooding; and the establishment of diverse agroforestry systems to help maintain crop yields under changing climates.