Mangrove forests in northeast Brazil provide multiple ecosystem services that benefit coastal populations: habitat for biodiversity, fisheries, coastal protection, estuarine filtration, carbon sequestration and storage, local climate regulation and cultural values13. Photo Credit: Clemente Coelho Jr./ Instituto Bioma Brasil
Coastlines are at the frontline of climate change and for this reason adaptation strategies should be at the forefront of climate mitigation action plans. Adapting to climate change requires considerable structural investment and can be seen as a heavy burden on the public purse, but not adapting is significantly more costly with potential catastrophic consequences15. A study conducted in Brazil for the city of Santos revealed that the implementation of adaptive construction projects in the Ponta da Praia area of Santos and the northwest of the city would cost at least R$300 million (£41 million). On the other hand, failure to adapt to climate change would cost at least R$1.5 billion (£205 million), in addition to the suffering it would cause the population17.
Adapting to climate change does not necessarily need to be very expensive. Nature-based strategies can be used to restore and improve the health of habitats and ecosystems that deliver climate-related ES, enhancing the environment at the same time as helping communities to adapt to some of the adverse effects of climate change18. Adaptation strategies that harness biodiversity and ES to increase resilience and reduce the vulnerability of human communities and natural systems to climate change are called Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) strategies19. EbA is often cost-effective and can be more so than alternative approaches to adaptation such as investment in infrastructure20. In coastal areas, EbA strategies include restoration and protection of natural barriers against sea level rise (e.g., mangroves, coral reefs and dunes), sustainable practices in agriculture and aquaculture, integrated water resource management, identification of risk areas and establishment of contingency plans, information and alert systems, data collection and monitoring programmes, among other actions15. Additionally, EbA can provide a variety of important wide-reaching and potentially long-lasting adaptation-related benefits (e.g., disaster risk reduction, climate change mitigation), ecosystem-related benefits (e.g., carbon sequestration and storage, biodiversity conservation, water quality improvement), and multiple social co-benefits (e.g., livelihood improvements, strengthened capacity, knowledge or awareness, strengthened community relations, governance improvements)21.