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Open Access Systematic Review Protocol

Review of the evidence base for ecosystem-based approaches for adaptation to climate change

Robert Munroe1*, Dilys Roe2, Nathalie Doswald3, Tom Spencer4, Iris Möller4, Bhaskar Vira5, Hannah Reid2, Andreas Kontoleon6, Alessandra Giuliani2, Ivan Castelli3 and Jen Stephens7

Author Affiliations

1 BirdLife International, Wellbrook Court, Girton Road, Cambridge, CB3 0NA, UK

2 International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), 80-86 Gray’s Inn Road, London, WC1X 8NH, UK

3 UNEP-WCMC, 219 Huntingdon Road, Cambridge, CB3 0DL, UK

4 Cambridge Coastal Research Unit, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place, Cambridge, CB2 3EN, UK

5 Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place, Cambridge, CB2 3EN, UK

6 Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, 19 Silver Street, Cambridge, CB3 9EP, UK

7 Research support provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through a consultancy, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 20523, USA

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Environmental Evidence 2012, 1:13  doi:10.1186/2047-2382-1-13

Published: 5 November 2012



Ecosystem-based approaches for adaptation (EbA) integrate the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services into an overall strategy for helping people adapt to climate change. To date, insight into these approaches has often been based on reports from isolated anecdotal case studies. Although these are informative, and provide evidence that people are using ecosystems to adapt, they provide rather limited insight in terms of measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of EbA, especially when compared with technical or structural adaptation interventions. The body of scientific evidence indicating how effective such approaches are is lacking in some aspects. Where evidence does exist it is often dispersed across a range of related fields, such as natural resource management, disaster risk reduction and agroecology. To date, there has been little attempt to systematically assemble and analyse this evidence. Therefore, the current state of evidence regarding the merits or otherwise of EbA is unknown and it has not been possible to identify prevailing knowledge gaps to inform research and analysis, which will enable policymakers to compare EbA with other adaptation options.


This protocol details the methodology to be used to conduct a systematic map of peer-reviewed published journal papers and a limited selection of grey literature, to give a methodical overview of the state of the evidence base for EbA effectiveness, and to identify the current knowledge gaps. It addresses the following question: What is the state of the evidence base regarding the ability of ecosystem-based approaches for adaptation to help people adapt to the impacts of climate change?

Climate change; Adaptation; Ecosystem management; Conservation; Biodiversity; Ecosystem services; Systematic map; Ecosystem-based approaches for adaptation; Ecosystem-based adaptation