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Why it works

Working with nature - not against

Ecosystem-based adaptation acknowledges the natural dynamics in an ecosystem and uses its capacity and specific characteristics to improve ecosystem services such as food and drinking water supply or disaster risk reduction. Through this comprehensive approach EbA measures bolster the whole ecosystem, which in turn increase the resilience of local communities and biodiversity for climate variability and potential climate change. EbA practice is working with the power of nature (instead ignoring it or even working against nature): it creates an ally in the fight against climate change.

Cost effective

Making use of the capacity of nature to feed, nurture and protect means that costly engineering solutions can be avoided. EbA measures often have multiple beneficiaries. For example: mangrove restoration not only establishes natural protection for coastal communities during cyclones it also creates fish nurseries, increasing fish stocks. Designating seasonal overflow areas for rivers not only prevents homes from flooding but at the same time enables fertilization of agricultural land and water storage for the dry season. So an investment in ecosystem-based climate adaptation at the same time is an investment in development and nature conservation.

Multi-stakeholder approach

EbA interventions are designed with the participation of all actors at the target site (e.g. farmers) and, if relevant, in the wider region (e.g.Ministry of Agriculture). Their timely and continuous engagement is essential for the success of EbA, as they are the ones who have the knowledge, experience, capacities, and resources; they also run the institutions dealing with land use and climate risks.

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    • In the United States coastal wetlands offer USD 23 billion worth of storm protection each year.
    • If coastal protection in The Maldives would rely on sea walls, break waters and other structures it would cost between USD 1.6 - 2.7 billion. Now the coral reef still takes care of this for free.
    • In 2011 a public private consortium in The Netherlands created a hook-shaped peninsula: the Sand Motor. After that the forces of nature took over and spread the sand along the coast thereby reinforcing the coastline and creating a dynamic area for the purposes of nature and recreation.

     “Nature is a powerful ally in our fight against climate change. We cannot afford to leave nature out of the equation; no climate action can possibly succeed without it.” - Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General.



    Examples of EbA measures

    • Sustainable water management, where river basins, aquifers, flood plains and their vegetation are managed to provide water storage and flood regulation
    • Disaster risk reduction, where restoration of coastal habitats such as mangroves can be effective against storm surges, saline intrusion and coastal erosion
    • Sustainable management of grasslands and rangelands, to enhance pastoral livelihoods and increase resilience to drought and flooding
    • Establishment of diverse agricultural systems, incorporating indigenous knowledge, and maintaining genetic diversity of crops and livestock  
    • Strategic management of shrublands and forests to limit size and frequency of uncontrolled forest fires 
    • Establishing and effectively managing protected areas systems to ensure the continued delivery of ecosystem services that increase resilience to climate change

    (source: UNCCD)


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