Societies have always sought to protect themselves and their valued assets from natural pressures and reduce their vulnerabilities (e.g. the hunting of large predators, the suppression of wildfires and the location of settlements in strategic areas). In modern times, engineering solutions have been widely used to safeguard infrastructure and productive systems from various hazards. Slopes have been stabilized with terraces, while rivers and coastal areas have been modified with dams and seawalls to regulate floods and provide irrigation. In recent years, increasing interest is being directed towards adaptation approaches that use ecosystem services to build socio-ecological resilience for extreme climatic events. From a socio-ecological perspective, resilience is characterized by the amount of change that a coupled system can undergo and still retain the desired functions and structure (resist); the degree to which it is capable of self-organizing (recover); and its ability to build and increase learning capacity and to adjust (adapt) (Gunderson and Holling 2002; Trosper 2002; Magrin et al. 2007). Improving the resilience of both ecosystems and people is one of the most readily available and accessible strategies for responding to unwanted changes and risks such as those caused by climate variability. Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) is defined as a set of adaptation policies or

measures that consider the role of ecosystem services to respond to the adverse impacts of climate change and can be used at multiple scales and in different sectors (CBD 2009; Vignola et al. 2009). EbA initiatives support development aspirations and adaptation objectives through the sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems (Naumann et al. 2011). Healthy natural and seminatural ecosystems provide a range of services for people’s well-being (e.g. fuelwood, clean water, raw materials, medicines, shelter and food). In addition, ecosystems form natural buffers against extreme weather events, thus supporting the resilience of people to climate variations and hazards (CBD 2000). For example, revegetating a degraded steep slope with trees helps to reduce the risks of landslides by protecting the soil from erosion. At the same time, trees can increase the food security of the local community by providing fruits and fuelwood.

Although EbA is mostly intended to decrease people’s vulnerability, it should also aim to reduce ecosystem vulnerability (e.g. SBSTA 2013). Both socio-ecological systems are intrinsically interconnected and if ecosystems are not able to adapt to climate change, their ability to provide benefits would be compromised with negative consequences on people’s vulnerability (Locatelli et al. 2008). Similarly, EbA has been described to be “about saving ecosystems and about using them to help people and the resources on which they depend” in the face of climate change (Burgiel and Muir 2010). The use of “green,” “soft” or “ecological engineering” as strategies of defense against climate change is particularly relevant considering that “in most places in the world, nature is the single most important input into local economies and human well-being” (Roberts et al. 2011). Ecosystems, in contrast to hard engineering measures such as steel or concrete infrastructures, are often immediately available and more accessible and integrated into communities (CBD 2009). EbA has synergies with community-based adaptation approaches and can effectively build on local knowledge and needs, while providing particular consideration to the most vulnerable groups of people, including women and the poorest, and to the most vulnerable ecosystems (see Figure 8.1). This chapter focuses on EbA in forest ecosystems and the provision of

additional benefits whose economic and ecological impacts are discussed along the book. In the first section below we discuss the process needed to implement EbA. The following section illustrates possible EbA applications with three case studies from Central America in which the resilience of socio-ecological systems toward climate change was strengthen. The case studies show how EbA support resilience while generating additional benefits relevant to reduce the negative impact of climate variability on other economic and ecological factors such as carbon stocks and timber, water regulation, and recreation. Finally, we summarize the main points and the policy implications in the Central America context.