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.