When it comes to climate change, nature can act as a tool that helps communities both adapt to current impacts by providing alternative food sources and other livelihood needs, and prevent future harm by building up ecosystem resilience.
Protecting and restoring ecosystems can provide adaptation solutions that are often effective, cost-efficient and sustainable, and can be implemented alone or in conjunction with other approaches. Failure to invest in ecosystems that provide clean water, food, coastal protection and other benefits will put millions of lives and livelihoods at risk.
Identifying adaptation solutions
Step 1: Conduct vulnerability assessments
Vulnerability assessments bring together scientists, government officials, local stakeholders and community members to discuss observed climate change impacts in the region and predict future effects. CI works with partners to identify and address climate change risks in countries as diverse as Madagascar, Ecuador and the Philippines.
To determine the vulnerability of a particular region to climate change, scientists examine a variety of local environmental and social factors, such as:
- Habitat connectivity (to determine whether species can shift their ranges)
- Overall ecosystem health (which indicates the potential level of resiliency to climate impacts)
- Social context of local communities (e.g. alternative livelihood opportunities, exposure to disease, etc.)
Step 2: Help people adapt
After each vulnerability assessment is conducted, scientists, local government representatives and other stakeholders work together to identify critical recommendations for implementing ecosystem-based adaptation on the ground.
By determining which regions, ecosystems and communities are at the highest risk for experiencing negative climate change impacts, we can prioritize conservation actions and build understanding of which adaptation actions work best under which circumstances and in which regions of the world.
In order to advance our work, CI is carrying out on-the-ground research and identifying conservation actions that will help maintain the services provided by healthy ecosystems (such as clean water provision by forests and wetlands and storm protection by mangroves).
Step 3: Help species and natural systems adapt
Humans aren't the only ones who must adapt to climate change; other species – the building blocks of all healthy ecosystems – also need our help.
CI is exploring the tools needed to protect critical ecosystems and optimize the ability of species to adapt to changes in their habitat. For example, our corridors program works to maintain habitat connectivity, allowing species to move to new elevations and sites that may be more suitable as climate change progresses.