Ecosystems and adaptation
Forests are home to much of the world’s biodiversity and many of the world's indigenous peoples. A large proportion of the world’s poor depend on forests for their livelihoods and direct needs. Forest ecosystems provide a wide range of ecosystem services that benefit humans locally and globally, for example: carbon storage; maintaining biological diversity; and regulating
rainfall, water infiltration and flooding. Conservation, sustainable management and restoration of natural forests can increase resilience and capacity to adapt to climate change, as well as supporting mitigation.
Agroforestry (the integration of trees into food and animal production) can be an effective adaptation approach. It is often considered more acceptable to communities than large scale reforestation, because traditional agricultural commodities can continue to be produced through modification of existing farming practices Adaptive benefits of agricultural systems with a diversity of crops and natural habitat include: microclimatic buffering; increased resistance to change impacts such as weather extremes, pest infestations and invasive species; improved soil fertility; more efficient water use; and income diversification. There are also mitigation co-benefits through increasing carbon stocks and reducing deforestation pressure.
Freshwater ecosystems occupy less than 1% of the earth’s surface, but sustain life and provide economic goods and services of enormous value. However, inland and coastal wetlands are being lost and degraded faster than any other ecosystem types. Healthy wetlands can greatly increase our resilience to climate change impacts such as storms, floods or droughts. For example, floodplains, peatlands and lakes reduce peak flood flows in periods of extreme rainfall, and can help compensate the impacts of glacier melt. Due to their ability to store and slowly release water, wetlands can also be a vital lifeline in periods of extreme drought.
Coastal wetlands such as mangrove forests can reduce the impacts of waves, storms, and sea-level rise by accumulating silt, reducing erosion and absorbing wave power. Protecting and restoring ‘green infrastructure’, for example through mangrove restoration or managed realignment of coastal wetlands, can be a cost-effective and affordable long-term strategy to defend human communities against climate change impacts. Such measures can provide multiple co-benefits, for example food and raw materials, livelihood options such as fishing and tourism, conserving biodiversity, and carbon storage17. In comparison, hard infrastructures, including seawalls and levees (often manufactured from materials with high carbon footprints), can be more expensive to build and maintain, and can impact on important natural processes up and down stream.
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