Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation
Essays and Perspectives
Ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change: concept, scalability and a role for conservation science
Fabio Rubio Scaranoa,b
a Fundação Brasileira para o Desenvolvimento Sustentável, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
b Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Centro de Ciências da Saúde-Instituto de Biologia, Departamento de Ecologia, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
Received 14 December 2016, Accepted 03 May 2017
Abstract

Societal adaptation to climate change requires measures that simultaneously reduce poverty, protect or restore biodiversity and ecosystem services, and remove atmospheric greenhouse gases. Ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change is the type of adaptation that aims to combine these outcomes and is particularly relevant to developing nations that safeguard most of the planetary biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. Although conceptually new, ecosystem-based adaptation is fastly gaining traction both as a research arena and as an integrated policy instrument. This paper aims to revisit this concept and to discuss the science and policy challenges faced by it. It argues that ecosystem-based adaptation is a policy mix that promotes adaptive transition, which is a step towards sustainability transitions. It faces two major challenges in promoting transitions towards adaptation and sustainability. First, research on ecosystem-based adaptation mostly takes place within the socio-ecological systems framework, which is often carried out in isolation from socio-technical systems research. It is widely recognized that both types of research should be integrated, for the benefit of science and policy-making, and the paper discusses the potential of ecosystem-based adaptation in providing such bridge. Second, there is a divide between global and local research and policy, while at local level this divide is related to the setting (e.g., coastal, urban, rural). The resulting mosaic of information lacks integration, which hinders scalability of actions and policies. Finally, I examine the opportunity for ecological and conservation scientists to interact with social, economic and political scientists on ecosystem-based adaptation research, and discuss how timely this opportunity is for Brazil.

Highlights

  • Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) promotes conservation while alleviating poverty and removing GHG.

  • EbA is a policy mix that integrates development and environmental policies.

  • It triggers adaptive transition, a key step towards sustainability transitions.

  • Conservation science can boost EbA by looking into coupled human-natural systems.

  • Brazil´s policy setting favors what is possibly the planet´s largest EbA program.

Keywords
Adaptive transition, Ecosystem services, Nature-based solutions, Policy mix, Sustainability transitions