Aerial View of Rainforest

Ecosystem-based Adaptation

Helping nature help people adapt to climate change


Even if the world stopped all carbon emissions immediately, the impacts of climate breakdown would continue for centuries, impacting nearly 800 million people. Humanity must scale up methods for adapting to climate change.

One promising approach is called Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA): the use of nature — conservation, restoration and sustainable management of ecosystems and biodiversity — to address climate impacts on people and livelihoods. Examples of EbA include rangeland restoration to bolster water supply to local communities and livestock during droughts; agroforestry to protect crops negatively affected by extreme temperatures; and mangrove restoration to protect coastal communities from storm surge, among others.

Despite its potential, ecosystem-based adaptation approaches receive less than 2% of global funding aimed at addressing climate change. Conservation International is advancing the science of EbA and working with governments and businesses to turn nature into our greatest ally against climate change.


Our current work

Assessing risk to climate impacts

Conservation International has conducted climate change vulnerability assessments in several regions — including the Abrolhos region in Brazil, in Namaqualand in South Africa, and in the Verde Island Passage in the Philippines — to understand how climate change and extreme weather events impact human populations, ecosystems and biodiversity — critical for understanding how to adapt in these places.

Prioritizing and implementing EbA

Conservation International has implemented EbA activities in Cambodia, Colombia, Central America, South Africa and Madagascar. We have prioritized and implemented EbA in a variety of ecosystems, such as mangroves, forests and grasslands, and in agricultural lands.


© Benjamin Drummond

EbA impact monitoring and evaluation 

Monitoring and evaluation are essential for assessing the effectiveness, costs and co-benefits of EbA actions. Conservation International has identified adaptation outcomes that can be achieved through EbA, such as reduced damages to coastal communities and infrastructure due to extreme weather events, and reduced impacts of climate change on water quality and quantity, as well as indicators for measuring those outcomes. 

Case study: The  project ‘The Sustainable Landscape in Eastern Madagascar,’ funded by the Green Climate Fund, aims to improve the resilience of climate-vulnerable smallholder farmers by implementing EbA actions. We are implementing a robust impact evaluation to understand the impacts of EbA in reducing the vulnerability and food insecurity of these farmers.


© CI/Sandra Sguerra

Understanding and implementing transformative adaptation

Transformative adaptation refers to actions that lead to fundamental shifts in states and interactions of people and nature while addressing root causes of vulnerability in the long term. Transformative adaptation is more anticipatory than other climate change responses, such as coping or incremental responses. The more transformative the adaptation strategy, the higher the human inputs and re-organization required — along with significant investments of time, money and skills. 

EbA actions are transformative when part of an integrated approach that fully takes into consideration best practices and future changes. They can reshape unsustainable interactions between people and nature, while moving beyond immediate material benefits or current development pathways. 

We are incorporating the concept of transformative adaptation into our EbA actions, including projects in Madagascar, Kenya, Colombia, Mexico, South Africa and Philippines.


© Georgina Goodwin

Reducing human insecurity

Human insecurity driven by a failure to address impacts of climate change can lead to forced migration and conflicts for scarce resources. This is of highest global concern as such failure can compromise the well-being of communities and countries, with long-lasting consequences across national borders.

Natural security — the connection between nature and human security — can enable communities to adapt by using effective, nature-based transformative adaptation actions, such as the introduction of trees in agricultural lands or the restoration of ecosystems such as grasslands. Healthy ecosystems can reduce the risk of human insecurity by providing safety nets in difficult times, preserving local cultures and collaborations, and reducing expansion to and intrusion into conservation areas, therefore avoiding forced migration and resource conflict.

Conservation International is examining evidence that nature protection, restoration and management reduce the risk of human insecurity driven by climate change.


Old women bringing in the sheep and goats in Kamiesberg, Namaqualand.
© Tessa Mildenhall

Supporting EbA policy

Conservation International is helping shape regional and national climate change adaptation policies and national adaptation planning, so that they include nature-based actions in reducing climate change impacts that substitute or complement hard infrastructure actions. Through engagement with international policy forums, lessons from our experiences are also informing global dialogue on EbA, influencing how EbA is implemented worldwide.


Peer-reviewed publications


Policy and technical briefs


Training modules and guidelines


Monitoring and evaluation of EbA


Vulnerability assessments


Camila Donatti, PhD.
Director, Climate Change Adaptation

Giacomo Fedele, PhD.
Manager, Climate Change Adaptation