Ecosystem-based adaptation: a new way to look at us and our environment

Submitted by the MEOPAR-Lincoln Research Project Team

There are various types of climate change adaptation strategies: technological, structural or those that are determined by policies and governmental decisions. Technological or structural adaptations are those that are related to any type of manipulation or intervention, such as the construction of a protection wall, infrastructure improvement, or even structural relocation.While some of these strategies can be simple and inexpensive to enact, others may be complex and potentially cost–prohibitive. What’s more, when we focus only on structure, technology or policies, we can sometimes forget other important factors: overall wellbeing, enjoyment of nature and the benefits the natural environment gives us, such as clean air, shade and heat reduction, and clean water.

That’s where Ecosystem-based Adaptation comes in. Often referred to as EbA, this form of adaptation can be defined as any strategy or action that employs the use of nature-based solutions to ensure humans and the natural environment can adapt to climate change. It considers that we, as humans, are also part of this ecosystem and uses the natural environment and the services/benefits it provides to adjust to climate changes. EbA has also been promoted by many international organizations, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the United Nations and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

There are many possible strategies in EbA, and many of which are less costly than technological or structural adaptations. Techniques utilizing soft protection of the shoreline (such as planting more vegetation) are less expensive and usually can last a lot longer than constructing a concrete retaining wall, for example. Adding more trees along the street can also help mitigate climate change, as well as providing shade and reducing heat waves and wind turbulence. Restoration of wetlands is another example of an EbA and can reduce the danger of flooding in a flood-prone neighborhood.

With a little imagination and lots of discussion with everyone at the table, we can discover many possible adaptations that will help our ecosystem while contributing to our overall quality of life in the process. 

Photo caption: Stacked armour stone walls along Charles Daley Park are an example of a location that may benefit from using ecosystem-based adaptation techniques.