Adapting to climate change is among the biggest challenges humanity faces in the next century. An overwhelming focus of adaptation strategies to reduce climate change-related hazards has been on hard-engineering structures such as sea walls, irrigation infrastructure and dams. Closer attention to a broader spectrum of adaptation options is urgently needed. In particular, ecosystem-based adaptation approaches provide flexible, cost-effective and broadly applicable alternatives for buffering the impacts of climate change, while overcoming many drawbacks of hard infrastructure. As such, they are a critical tool at adaptation planners’ disposal for tackling the threats that climate change poses to peoples’ lives and livelihoods.