Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Projects, More than just Adaptation: Analysis of Social Benefits and Costs in Colombia

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Nov 1;16(21):4248. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16214248.


Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) projects are increasingly flourishing throughout the globe on the grounds that EbA constitutes a particularly community-friendly solution for adaptation to climate change as it brings about an array of co-benefits. However, the promotion of EbA projects, by development agencies and conservation NGOs, remains blurry as it has not yet been contrasted against evidence on its effectiveness in delivering these benefits. Employing a political ecology perspective, the applied conceptual framework allows for the assessment of the social benefits and costs that EbA projects generate or reinforce and factors that influence the distribution of these social benefits or costs. This research is done in regards to two EbA projects in Colombia: one in the Andes focusing on water provision services from páramos, and the other in a coastal mangrove focusing on regulation services of extreme coastal events. Based on data collected by a qualitative multi-method approach, we find evidence that the assessed EbA projects generate a wide range of perceived social benefits and costs for the local communities living in the vicinity of the project sites. Furthermore, we identify agent-level (i.e., capitals and preferences) as well as structural factors (communication, participation, local and institutional context) that influence the generation and distribution of those social benefits and costs. Finally, this paper illustrates some of the contradictions and tensions in which EbA projects are implemented and how they may end up affecting the adaptive capacity of the communities involved in EbA projects.

Keywords: Colombia; climate change; ecosystem-based adaptation; mangroves; social benefits; water.

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization*
  • Colombia
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / economics*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Humans