Houses on stilts. Down jackets. A taste for sea urchin. As long as humans have walked (and ridden and kayaked) the Earth, we have been adapting to the conditions of our local environments. Present and future effects of climate change indicate that this cycle of adaptation must not only continue but increase in order for species and the natural ecosystems we rely on to survive.
But don’t we want to stop climate change instead of accept it?
Research shows that even if all global greenhouse gas emissions stopped today, the effects of climate change would still be felt for centuries. Negative impacts ranging from drought in sub-Saharan Africa to increased flooding in Bangladesh will continue to undermine the services ecosystems provide for local communities—services like the provision of food, water and livelihoods for millions of people. These impacts will hit the world’s poorest communities the hardest, as they are most directly reliant on nearby ecosystems for survival.
Since its inception, Conservation International (CI) has promoted the value of healthy ecosystems for human well-being. Our ecosystem-based approach to climate adaptation integrates local and traditional knowledge with field science, working with governments and partner organizations to empower communities and create sustainable management plans.
LERAN MORE: Find out about CI's climate change strategy
There is increasing evidence that healthy ecosystems are more resilient to the effects of climate change and can buffer nearby communities from potentially catastrophic environmental changes. CI’s resilience projects focus on restoring degraded habitats in especially vulnerable regions. Our adaptation projects help to prepare people, species and ecosystems for the changes already set in motion by climate change.
Both types of projects must be implemented in tandem in order to maximize the resistance of societies and ecosystems to the physical impacts of climate change.
Examples from the Field
CI is pursuing climate resilience and adaptation projects in communities across the globe.
In Madagascar, CI is helping to create 38 new protected areas in the country’s most important forest corridors, such as the Mantadia corridor, where sustainable agricultural practices have enhanced garden production and created more than 200 jobs.
In the Philippines’ Verde Island Passage (VIP), a CI-led collaborative vulnerability assessment concluded that climate change will alter the direction and increase the frequency of storms in the VIP. CI’s mangrove restoration project in the Calatagan region will increase the resilience of especially vulnerable coastal areas to climate change.
FEATURE: Developing Climate-Smart Plans
On Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake, CI and local partners have secured government approval to triple the size of the lake’s fish sanctuaries to 50,000 hectares (almost 124,000 acres). They are also working to protect dry season ponds, create artificial reefs, and replant more than 1,000 hectares (about 2,471 acres) of illegally logged forest, securing the ecosystem on which the lives of three million people depend.
READ MORE: Freshwater, Biodiversity and People
Read the conclusion of this story