Vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation to sea level rise: Taking an ecosystem-based approach

Alverson, K. | Oceanography | 2012 | Peer Reviewed | Perspective |


Adaptation to climate change is one of the defining global environmental, social, and economic challenges of the twenty-first century, recognized by heads of state at the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development in 2012 as “an immediate and urgent global priority.” At the root of this challenge is a troubling disparity between the global scale of the anthropogenic causes of change and the local scale of adaptation measures. Additionally, although any one specific trigger may be global climate change related— rising global mean sea level is just one example—the adaptation response will always require much broader interdisciplinary perspectives. Some of the most vexing adaptation challenges are not technical or scientific at their core, but will be dominated by social, economic, and legal considerations. However, one thing is quite clear. Ecosystems have evolved a great resilience to past climatic variability and extreme events. In our efforts to reduce our own vulnerability to these same forces, it behooves us to harness this powerful ecosystem-based resilience as an integral element of our adaptation efforts.