German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Adaptation, Nature Conservation and Climate Change Mitigation

The challenge of climate change - Partnering with nature

Global climate change is not an abstract future risk; it is already underway. Serious consideration thus needs to be taken of climate change mitigation and adaptation action. This applies not only to agriculture, forestry, and water management, but also to other areas such as healthcare, city planning, transport, and tourism. These fields are under increasing pressure to adapt to changes in the climate as well as to contribute to climate change mitigation through appropriate measures.

Ecosystems play an important role in this process, as they provide the basis for life through their multifaceted functions (water and climate regulation, air pollution regulation, food production, provision of recreation space, etc). Yet ecosystems also have to adapt to long-term changing temperature and rainfall patterns, which is only possible if they remain intact and stable.

Degraded ecosystems are not capable of providing many services which are crucial for human life. The maintenance, restoration, and sustainable use of ecosystems therefore form the basis of "nature-based approaches" to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

It is possible with nature-based approaches to combine climate change mitigation, adaptation, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable resource management. Nature-based approaches are often called "no-regret" options, meaning that the measures are useful even if the effects of climate change do not materialize as predicted. Such approaches are often cost-efficient and allow for flexibility in dealing with a constantly changing climate and its associated risks. Additionally, multiple goals are pursued in parallel with nature-based approaches. They can therefore effectively complement existing technical approaches and - in some cases - even replace them (eg, in the case of coastal protection or in the fight against urban heat island effects).


In nature-based climate change mitigation, ecosystem services are used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to conserve and expand carbon sinks.

In nature-based climate adaptation, the goal is to preserve ecosystem services that are necessary for human life in the face of climate change and to reduce the impact of anticipated negative effects of climate change (eg. more intense rainfall, more frequent floods as well as heat waves and droughts).

Both approaches seek to increase the resilience of ecosystems and thereby to stabilize the provisioning of important services. An important requirement for this is the stabilisation and strengthening of the functional relationships within the ecosystem and between species to increase their resilience. This can be achieved through various measures, eg. with sustainable use alongside the protection and regeneration of ecosystems.

Nature-based approaches are also known as "ecosystem-based approaches".

Last Change: 10/11/2015