The role of ecosystems in climate change adaptation
Healthy, bio-diverse environments play a vital role in maintaining and increasing resilience to climate change, and reducing risk and vulnerability. This is particularly critical to the world's 2.7 billion poor people, many of whom depend on natural resources directly for their livelihood and survival.
BirdLife International's experience shows that supporting the application of local knowledge and community engagement can build the resilience of natural and societal systems, delivering locally appropriate solutions to help communities, countries and economies adapt to climate change.
The role of ecosystems in climate change adaptation can usefully be applied at all scales: local, landscape, national, transboundary and international. The BirdLife Partnership’s unique local-to-global structure has enabled structures and processes to be established that contribute to long-term and flexible approaches to climate change adaptation.
Of BirdLife's 100-plus national Partners, more than 60 are in low income countries. Partners are working in many areas already impacted by climate change, and in others where it will add to current vulnerabilities.
- conserving and restoring forests to stabilise slopes and regulate water flows, preventing flooding and landslides as rainfall levels and intensity increase
- establishing diverse agroforestry systems to cope better with the changing temperatures, water shortages and pest infestations associated with climate change
- sustainable management of wetlands and floodplains for maintenance of water flow and quality, acting as floodwater reservoirs and as important stores of water in times of drought
- coastal defence through the maintenance and/or restoration of mangroves and other coastal wetlands, which act as coastal buffers, helping to reduce flooding and erosion and protect against cyclone damage
- integrating ‘nature-based’ infrastructure and technology into hard engineering approaches, to avoid damage to ecosystems
Including the role of ecosystems in different approaches to adaptation can provide many benefits. They are accessible to rural and poor communities, and are often more cost-effective and enduring, because they provide local benefits, and can be locally managed and maintained. They balance immediate needs with preparation for long-term impacts, providing alternative livelihood options in the face of climate change uncertainty. They combine indigenous and local knowledge with external expertise. They contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and to climate change mitigation by maintaining carbon storage.
BirdLife is calling for the importance of healthy ecosystems to be effectively written into national, regional and international climate change and development policy.
Partners with Nature published by BirdLife in December 2009, includes 14 examples of BirdLife Partners' work with vulnerable communities that provide adaptation benefits
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