Identifying and Evaluating Adaptation Options

Adaptation is necessary not only to respond to the projected changes in climate but also because climate change is already affecting many ecosystems. Adaptation activities can have negative, neutral or positive impacts on biodiversity, but positive effects may generally be achieved through, for example: maintaining and restoring native ecosystems, protecting and enhancing ecosystem services, actively preventing and controlling invasive alien species, and developing agroforestry systems at transition zones. Adaptation activities that can have a negative impact on biodiversity include: the construction of artificial coastal protection, changed water management practices, and new cultivation methods such as mariculture or aquaculture, that can introduce to ecosystems new species with the potential to become invasive.

The following table provides examples of some of the many options available for adapting to climate change. Using the research available on these adaptation options managers may be better able to make an informed decision about the threats and benefits to biodiversity under different adaptation processes.

The table below can be organized by Likely Impact on Biodiversity, Biome or Adaptation Type.

BiomeAdaptation ActivityType of AdaptationPotential Risk
to Biodiversity
Possible Action
for Adaptive Mgmt.
Adverse
Marine and coastal biodiversitySeawalls, dykes and tidal barriersEconomic and technologicalHigh if concrete/rock structures are used; Low-medium if mud walls and vegetation are usedInclude biodiversity (terrestrial and coastal/marine) considerations in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
Marine and coastal biodiversityBridges to cross potentially inundated areasEconomic and technologicalMedium-high depending on the locationInclude terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity considerations in EIA
Adverse to Neutral
Agricultural biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Introduction of drought-tolerant varietiesEconomic, scientific and technologicalLow if the growing season is not extended;  high if varieties become invasive, or if extending into marginal lands not previously cultivatedMonitor for likely effects on biodiversity and include adaptive management
Agricultural biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Inland water biodiversity
Introduction of plant varieties tolerant to higher temperaturesEconomic, scientific and technologicalHigh if using more water for growth or if varieties become invasiveMonitor for likely effects on biodiversity and include adaptive management
Agricultural biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Forest biodiversity
Inland water biodiversity
Mountain biodiversity
Introduction of pest-resistant varietiesEconomic, scientific and technologicalHigh risk if varieties become invasiveMonitor for likely effects on biodiversity and include adaptive management
Marine and coastal biodiversityIntroduction of salt-tolerant varieties of native plants and animals for coastal protection/revegetationEconomic, scientific and technologicalLowMonitor for likely effects on biodiversity and include adaptive management
Agricultural biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Inland water biodiversity
Mountain biodiversity
Diversion of fresh water to areas suffering water shortage (dams or irrigation channels) or increased extraction of groundwater supplyEconomic, regulatory and technological  Medium-high depending on environmental flow, the rate of withdrawal, etc.Include terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity considerations in EIA
Agricultural biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Introduction of salt tolerant varieties of native biotaEconomic and scientificHigh if varieties become invasiveMonitor for likely effects on biodiversity and include adaptive management
Inland water biodiversity
Marine and coastal biodiversity
Construction of buildings on stiltsEconomic and technologicalLow if already in urban areasMonitor for likely effects on biodiversity and include adaptive management
Inland water biodiversity
Marine and coastal biodiversity
Establishment of aquaculture, including mariculture, to compensate for climate-induced losses in food productionEconomic and technologicalHigh if alien, GMO fish or carnivorous fish (due to harvest of wild fish for food) are used; high if harmful chemicals are releasedMonitor for likely effects on biodiversity and include adaptive management
Adverse to Positive
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversityUse of prescribed grazing management regimesRegulatory and scientificHigh if overgrazing occursMonitor for likely effects on biodiversity and include adaptive management
Marine and coastal biodiversityMigration of people from coastal areas and/or marginal lands (e.g., in semi-arid areas)Behavioural and individualLow if moving to urban areas, although could place additional pressure on water and energy resources; high if moving to slightly less marginal areasEducate urban planners to minimize the exploitation of natural resources; effect of other migration may be hard to manage
Marine and coastal biodiversityRe-zoning in coastal areasInstitutional and regulatoryHigh if high- biodiversity areas are urbanized; low otherwiseStrategic environmental assessment should consider the impact on biodiversity and zone accordingly; allow for appropriate conservation areas for biodiversity
Neutral to Positive
Agricultural biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Forest biodiversity
Mountain biodiversity
Establishment of protected areas or management for sustainable useInstitutional and regulatoryLowMonitor for likely effects on biodiversity and include adaptive management
Mountain BiodiversityEstablishment of protected areas or management for sustainable useInstitutional and regulatoryLowMonitor for likely effects on biodiversity and include adaptive management
Positive
Agricultural biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Introduction or extension of multi-cropping or mixed farming systems  (e.g., agroforestry systems) to enhance ecosystem resilience; introduction of new crop/animal species and varietiesEconomic and scientificLow-medium if replacing an existing crop without extending the cropland; high if the crop/animal becomes an invasive speciesAssess the potential invasiveness risk of the introduced species; minimize the land under intensive agriculture
Agricultural biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Changes in grazing managementEconomicLow-Medium  Monitor the effects on biodiversity
Agricultural biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Changes in timing and type of irrigation and fertilizer useEconomic, institutional and technologicalLow if switching to water saving irrigation; medium if introducing irrigation to new areasMonitor for changes and/or examine the possibility of introducing the most appropriate irrigation for the crop and for the fertilizer; timing of fertilizer application can be important in minimizing the risk to biodiversity
Agricultural biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Low-tillage cropping, maintaining cropping residues and reducing fallow periods  Economic, scientific and technologicalLow if soil erosion is reduced; high if low tillage leads to increased herbicide applicationMonitor for gains in biodiversity or reduction in erosion and potential water use
Agricultural biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Forest biodiversity
Abandonment of agricultureEconomic and regulatoryLow if native species colonize; high if non-native or invasive species colonize, or if moderate disturbance (low-intensity grazing) is suppressedManagement of the abandoned land may be  necessary to provide maximum benefits to biodiversity
Agricultural biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Forest biodiversity
Inland water biodiversity
Marine and coastal biodiversity
Mountain biodiversity
Rehabilitation of damaged ecosystemsInstitutional, regulatory and scientificLow; high if invasive species are used or neighbouring areas are damaged.  Monitor for likely effects on biodiversity and include adaptive management
Agricultural biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Forest biodiversity
Mountain biodiversity
Establishment of corridors, both horizontal and vertical for mountain ecosystemsInstitutional, regulatory and scientificLow-Medium if allowing migration of invasive speciesMonitor the migration of plant and animal species in the corridors and the connected cells of the landscapes, and manage invasive species when detected
Agricultural biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Forest biodiversity
Mountain biodiversity
Reduction of other pressures on biodiversity arising from habitat conversion, over-harvesting, pollution, and alien species invasionsRegulatory, scientific and technologicalLow, but methods may have secondary effects on biodiversityMonitor for likely effects on biodiversity and include adaptive management EIA and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on the activities causing the pressures
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversityEfficient management of rain waterBehavioural and individual and technologicalLowMonitor for likely effects on biodiversity and include adaptive management
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity Forest biodiversity
Mountain biodiversity
Natural forest regeneration, sustainable forest management / and avoided deforestationEconomic, institutional and regulatoryLow if natural forest regeneration occurs and sustainable forest management practices are used; high if invasive species colonizeMonitoring to assess the gains for biodiversity
Dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity
Forest biodiversity
Inland water biodiversity
Mountain biodiversity
Landscape-scale managementInstitutional, regulatory and scientificLow-very low if aimed at benefiting biodiversityMonitoring would still be necessary to ensure that the goals are being met; need to consider and, if necessary, enact policies to deal with land tenure issues and compensation for reduction in intensity of farming practices
Forest biodiversityPractice of low-intensity forestryRegulatory and scientificLow-mediumMonitor for likely effects on biodiversity and include adaptive management
Island biodiversityIslands, particularly small islands, are socially and ecologically vulnerable to climate change. All adaptation activities identified for the thematic areas marine and coastal biodiversity, inland waters, agricultural biodiversity , dry and sub humid land biodiversity, forest biodiversity and mountain biodiversity might also be relevant for island biodiversity but their implementation may need special considerations .

Adaptation Options

This database provides links to scientific studies and other resources on biodiversity-related climate change adaptation. These examples can assist managers and governments to find adaptation options that will not have a negative impact on biodiversity.

For examples of adaptation plans already in place, please see the map of case studies on the following page.

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Ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation and mitigation - good practice examples and lessons learned from Europe
Type: Case Study
Date Added: 28 Feb 2012
The report documents and analyses good practice examples of ecosystem-based approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation in Europe....
Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in European Forests – EFI Policy Brief 6
Type: Case Study
Date Added: 21 Apr 2011
The Policy Brief was compiled within the Models for Adaptive Forest Management (MOTIVE) project, a large-scale integrated project in the seventh Framework Programme of the EU. MOTIVE seeks to develop and evaluate strategies that can adapt forest management practices to balance multiple objectives un...
Mainstreaming Adaptation within Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in Small Island Developing State (SIDS): A Case Study of the Nadi River Basin, Fiji Islands
Type: Case Study
Date Added: 20 Apr 2011
Chapter 4 of "Building Resilience to Climate Change: Ecosystem-based adaptation and lessons from the field". This paper provides summary perspectives on water-based adaptation through Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) practices that provides options to address climate change in small i...
Building Resilience to Climate Change: Ecosystem-based adaptation and lessons from the field
Type: Case Study
Date Added: 20 Apr 2011
This book is one of the main contributions of the Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to the international discussions on how we should address climate change impacts on natural and human systems, including ecosystems and the serv...
L'adaptation du littoral aux changements climatiques dans le droit français
Type: Case Study
Date Added: 19 Apr 2011
Le phénomène des changements climatiques apparaît alors comme une occasion de tester l'intégration des politiques sectorielles. Une réorganisation réussie des priorités dans un contexte marqué par un degré élevé de risque et d'incertitude devrait attester d'une gestion intégrée des zones côtières (G...
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