Priorities for embedding ecological integrity in climate adaptation policy and practice

Elsevier, One Earth, Volume 6, 16 June 2023
Elsen P.R., Oakes L.E., Cross M.S., DeGemmis A., Watson J.E.M., Cooke H.A. et al.

Humanity must adapt rapidly to climate change as the impacts accelerate. Growing scientific evidence underscores the role of ecological integrity in improving adaptation outcomes for nature and people by providing climate refugia for biodiversity, buffering natural hazards, protecting freshwater resources, and benefiting human health. However, climate adaptation initiatives have largely neglected to prioritize ecological integrity, even though it is critical for effective adaptation and achieving global conservation goals. Here, we highlight how climate and biodiversity policy and practice can help manage ecosystems for ecological integrity and ecological and social adaptation outcomes. We discuss challenges associated with operationalizing ecological integrity in adaptation policy and practice and describe seven priorities for scientists, policymakers, and practitioners to improve adaptation outcomes through supporting the retention of high-integrity ecosystems and the restoration of low-integrity ecosystems. Finally, we show how linking these priorities to UN frameworks on climate, biodiversity, and sustainable development would help attain the best outcomes for people and nature in a changing climate.