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Ecosystem based
Adaptation & CAP
building resilience
to climate change
“Ecosystem-based adaptation uses biodiversity and ecosystem services in an overall adaptation
strategy. It includes the sustainable management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems
to provide services that help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change”(CBD, 2009).
Ecosystem-based adaptation helps to build the
resilience of natural habitat and communities to
climate change impacts and thereby reduce their
vulnerability whilst providing multiple benefits (Colls
et al, 2009); such as livelihoods, sustainable natural
resources and ecosystem services. South Africa can
expect average temperature increases between 1°C
and 3°C by 2050, accompanied by an up to 30%
reduction in rainfall, an increased incidence of
droughts, floods and severe storms, coupled with
sea level rises as much as 1 m in areas (IPCC, 2007).
Ecosystem-based Activities
In response, we need activities and management
approaches that conserve species and habitat,
connect landscapes and protect ecosystem services.
Some examples of activities are provided by the
IUCN report: Ecosystem-based adaptation: A Natural
response (Colls et al, 2009) * as:
• Sustainable water management, where river
catchment areas, flood plains, and their associated
vegetation are restored and managed to provide
water storage and flood regulation services.
• Disaster risk reduction, where restoration of
coastal habitats such as coastal dunes and wetlands
can be a particularly effective measure against
storm-surges, saline intrusion and coastal erosion.
• Sustainable management of grasslands
and savannahs and other grazing lands, to
improve the ability of pastoralists to adapt and
enhance their livelihoods whilst building resilience
against drought and flooding; as these ecosystems
and the services upon which we depend are
conserved and intact.
•Establishment of diverse agricultural
systems, using indigenous knowledge of specific
crop and livestock varieties, together with
adaptation strategies such as reduced stocking
rates, rotational grazing and sustainable
agricultural practices, maintaining genetic diversity
of crops and livestock, and conserving diverse
agricultural landscapes . This secures food
provision in changing local climatic conditions.
• Strategic management of thicket and forests
to limit the frequency and intensity of uncontrolled
forest fires; and to maintain the carbon stocks.
• Establishing and effectively managing
protected area systems to ensure the continued
delivery of ecosystem services that increase
resilience to climate change as well as creating
corridors to link these protected areas so services
are connected across the landscape and species
can shift as required to. (*These activities are
based from Colls et al, 2009 but include South
African examples).
CAP and Ecosystem-based adaptation
CAP promotes the conservation and sustainable
management of intact healthy ecosystems as part
of the solution to climate change. Our efforts are
not only for mitigation purposes (to store harmful
green house gases such as carbon and methane) but
also adaptation, which means “coping with the
changes/impacts” that climate change brings and
being more resilient to them. By protecting the
services and biodiversity provided by healthy
ecosystems we reduce our risk whilst also providing
jobs for our communities.
CAP is working with its partners on supporting the
“enabling environment“ for ecosystem based
adaptation through guiding national and
international polices and strategies that should
integrate ecosystems into adaptation approaches.
Some of the approaches to supporting the enabling
environment for ES based adaptation that
Conservation International are using are:
Conducting vulnerability assessments; identifying
key adaptation responses and linking them with
local, regional and national planning processes and
supporting local communities to implement locally
appropriate adaptation practices. An important
aspect of this process is the monitoring and
evaluation of the effectiveness of the adaptive
management techniques.
CAP is also implementing ecosystem-based
approaches through projects including
reforestation in KwaZulu-Natal, thicket restoration
in the Eastern Cape and restoration of soil and
water services in a riverine habitat in the Karoo.
We use ecosystem-based approaches with our
corridor projects in KwaZulu-Natal and Karoo and
Northern Cape where land is put under
conservation though stewardship agreements to
connect protected areas and create links across
large landscapes. This is to allow species to shift
under climate change threats and to maintain
ecological services on which we depend.
CAP is also conducting a research project to assess
the monitoring criteria required in these corridors
to track long term changes and to assess the
viability of these corridors for adaptation purposes.
See for more information.
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (2009).
Connecting Biodiversity and Climate Change Mitigation and
Adaptation: Report of the Second Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group
on Biodiversity and Climate Change. Montreal, Technical Series
No. 41, 126 pp
Colls. A, Ash. N, and Ikkala. N (2009). Ecosystem-based
Adaptation: a natural response to climate change. Gland,
Switzerland: IUCN. 16pp
Intergovernmental Panel of Climate change, 2007 report
For more information please contact:
Sarshen Marais
Climate Action Partnership coordinator
[email protected]
Jessica Thorn
Project Officer
[email protected]
tel: +27 21 799 8834
fax: +27 21 762 6838
Centre for Biodiversity Conservation
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Private Bag X7