Forests and Climate Change


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Forest ecosystems contribute to adaptation by providing ecosystem services that reduce the vulnerability of local communities, economic sectors, and the broader society to climate change. Examples of such services include the provision of safety-net goods (e.g. NTFPs, fire wood) when crops fail due to drought, the regulation of water flows during increased precipitation, and the protection of coastal settlements from storms and sea-level rise.

Forests contribute to mitigation because of their capacity to remove carbon from the atmosphere and to store it. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) is based on financial incentives to preserve or manage forests sustainably, or to increase carbon stocks with reforestation.

An integrated approach to deal with climate change focuses on strategies that consider adaptation and mitigation together, as it is clear that forests have a role to play in both. There are many linkages between forest-based adaptation and mitigation, but there can be trade-offs as well.

Adaptation projects can directly affect ecosystems and carbon stocks, thus having an impact on mitigation. Ecosystem-based adaptation projects can directly benefit climate change mitigation, through either increasing or maintaining carbon stocks (e.g. mangroves simultaneously contribute to protecting coastal areas and to storing carbon). However, there may be trade-offs between carbon and the local ecosystem services prioritised by an adaptation project. For example, spatial priorities for the conservation of hydrological ecosystem services and carbon may be different.

Forest mitigation projects (e.g. REDD+) have the potential to facilitate the adaptation of forests to climate change by reducing anthropogenic pressures on forests and conserving biodiversity. However, additional forest adaptation measures (e.g. fire management) might be needed to ensure the permanence of carbon storage.

Forest mitigation projects can have positive impacts on local livelihoods and their adaptive capacity. They can increase the provision of  ecosystem services to local communities, diversify incomes and economic activities, develop infrastructure or social services, and strengthen local institutions. But impacts can be also negative. For example, concerns have been raised regarding the possibility that REDD+ projects restrict the rights and access of local people to land and forest resources, or increase the dependence of local people to insecure external funding.

Details of the AfricaAdapt network's projects on Forests


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Further resources

REDD+ and climate adaptation need each other: REDD+ will work better if the effects of climate change on people and forests is recognised, and well designed REDD+ policies will have the potential to increase the resilience of forest-dependent communities.

Similar issues need to be considered when addressing adaptation and mitigation together: local livelihoods, governance, rights of vulnerable groups, participation in decision making, and links between scales, from local to national and international. 

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img 3607 - climate adaptation.

Call for papers Ambio Special Feature Human Adaptation to Climate Induced Biodiversity Change

Across the planet, climate change has already led to local extinctions of hundreds of species. Phenology is altering, and many species are rapidly changing range. People must adapt to change in local biodiversity, and the ways they adapt will affect species and ecosystems, as well as human well-being. This Ambio Special Feature introduces the theme ‘Human Adaptation to Biodiversity Change’ for the first time, focusing especially on biodiversity change that is driven by climate change, and on conceptualizing adaptation to biodiversity change ‘from below’ – that is, adaptation on the part of the people most directly affected.

The articles in this feature will deal with both conceptual issues related to such adaptation (e.g. with how knowledge, values, and livelihoods are best understood in relation to biodiversity change), as well as case studies that investigate the ways in which people have adapted, or are currently adapting (or mal-adapting), to changes in biodiversity that result, e.g. from the local extinction of a single species (e.g. a cultural keystone species), of a group of species (e.g. native crops or crustaceans), or an entire trophic level (e.g. large fish or predators); to changes in community composition (e.g. as a result of invasive species), major changes in population numbers, or in pest and disease incidence, etc. driven principally by climate change. Also of interest are people’s responses to shifts in locally and regionally important species or varieties (e.g. crops, trees, fish) as their ‘envelopes’ shift geographically, entailing both benefits and harms, and potential new forms of cooperation and conflict.

Questions that might be addressed include:

How do people perceive and understand such change?

How do people value biological resources and change in these?

How do people respond to perceived risks, and what affects their ability to respond?

How can such studies contribute to 'climate change adaptation' policy? To biodiversity policy?

Articles are invited from both the developing and developed world, from so-called difficult environments and those that are not, from indigenous peoples living in the tropics or the Artic to 'modern' agriculturalists living in the North. Word limit: 8000 words. Expected publication date: April 2018. Please send manuscripts by May 1st to:

Dr. Rajindra K. Puri  [email protected]

Prof. Patricia Howard [email protected]



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