Albertans rely on native ecosystems to support their well-being; our ecosystems provide us with clean water, clean air and a sense of place, as well as supporting important industries like agriculture and forestry. As our ecosystems change in response to changes in climate, Alberta’s communities – and their local governments – will be required to make decisions that encourage adaptation to their new climate and environmental conditions.
There are a variety of ways that municipalities can approach climate change adaptation – in many cases, local governments are already taking actions that support climate change resilience. ‘Ecosystem-based’ approaches focus on building climate resilience by protecting or restoring the healthy ecosystems that support human well-being – through food production or water purification, for example. These healthy ecosystems contribute directly to climate resilience by moderating the increasingly devastating effects of natural cycles like flood or drought.Ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation can have many advantages over hard infrastructure development.
Approaches that focus on building ecosystem resilience to climate change have the potential to achieve multiple community objectives through a single action. For example, a protected wetland upstream of a community maintains the resilience of the community’s water supply, while also continuing to provide critical habitat, store carbon and filter water. Because they have multiple benefits, these strategies are lower-risk in light of the uncertainty associated with predicting the exact impacts of climate change on a community. Though the benefits and costs of each adaptation strategy will depend on the specific nature of the risks identified by individual communities, ecosystem-based approaches are typically very cost-effective.
Adapt-action is a free, web-based support tool for municipalities in southern Alberta, helping them include climate change adaptation in their planning. Adapt-action provides practical and credible information on the implications of climate change for municipalities, the causal environmental changes, and potential adaptation strategies. Adapt-action’s ecosystem-based strategies complement hard infrastructure approaches to building climate resiliency, and include a library of resources that can help communities with climate change adaptation planning.
Review of community-based approaches to climate change adaptation, including existing decision support tools.
How decision support tools that reflect climate change impacts and adaptation strategies for biodiversity and ecosystem services can fit into climate change adaptation planning.
A review of southern Alberta municipal policies to identify the range of opportunities available to local governments to address climate change adaptation using existing municipal plans and policies.
A review of climate change adaptation strategies that incorporate ecosystem-based approaches to reduce the impacts of climate change on the environmental, social and economic well-being of communities.