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

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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Background documents

Participating Organisations


michelo simweete

programme officer-project development and management

Riina Jalonen

Associate Scientist

Sebastian Cardenas

Executive Director on 180 Degrees Foundation

Marlene Dapozzo

Social Communicator at SENAMHI

Laura Batlle


Claudia Melim-McLeod

Principal Consultant at MMC

Friederike Mikulcak

Junior Professional Officer at World Bank

Bruno Marino

CEO, Founder

Ekky Rizky Purwanto

college student

Co Roelofs

Employer and change manager


Latest Discussions

Daimen Hardie

“Certainly - in other words we need to make adaptation a well paying day job . Your comment is very timely James. We're...”

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