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Adaptation to Climate Change in the Andes: gaps in understanding and opportunities for knowledge management

This regional study aims to identify the knowledge gaps and working priorities for climate change adaptation in the Andes.
Multiple Authors
Local girls look at the view in Ausangate, Perú


Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) has become a priority issue in the scientific, policy and management agenda around the relationship between sustainable development and Climate Change (CC). However, there are few initiatives focused on identifying knowledge needs around adaptation, especially at the regional and sub-regional levels. In turn, CCA is thematically very broad, being a cross-cutting approach that touches on a very large diversity of aspects, from disaster engineering and risk management, climate-smart agriculture to EbA. Thus, it is necessary to identify priority areas of work to focus efforts on an agenda that is viable and that will make it possible to face the most urgent challenges posed by CC in the region.

The objective of this document is toconduct an analysis of the gaps in knowledge and work priorities related to CCA in the Andes, as a key input to guide synthesis and knowledge management efforts in this area, and as a contribution to guide the definition of priorities for decision-making processes and policies in the Andean region, as well as programs and actions for the implementation of CCA measures in the region.

To meet this objective, we have developed an integrated overview derived from a review of the literature and research agendas available on the subject at the global and Andean levels, the experience accumulated by CONDESAN and other institutions in the region on CCA, and the vision of key actors in the Andes, including decision makers, experts on the subject, and stakeholders involved in the implementation of adaptation projects and solutions.

Download the full publication from the right-hand column. The key messages from the publication are provided below. See the full text for much more detail.

Methods and Tools

The aim of this work was to identify knowledge gaps in our understanding of the impacts, exposure and vulnerability of socio-ecosystems to climate change, as well as limitations or barriers to the implementation and adoption of effective adaptation strategies or solutions.

We started from the knowledge gaps perspective of the 2014 UNEP Adaptation Gap Report that proposes three types of knowledge gaps: (1) gaps in the current knowledge base, (2) lack of integration of different knowledge areas, and (3) limited transfer and adoption of this knowledge to key stakeholders including decision makers. Furthermore, from the gaps in knowledge identified, we propose to analyse those that can be considered a priority in the context of the region, in terms of the urgency of addressing the main vulnerabilities of Andean ecosystems and societies.

Thus, in this exercise we integrated multiple sources of information, following these steps (see page 12 of the full text for details of the texts reviewed and the stakeholder consultation process):

  • Definition of the general conceptual and policy framework, based on a review of the evolution of available conceptual frameworks and views on CCA.
  • Review of the Andean adaptation policy framework.
  • Review of the state of knowledge in the Andes.
  • Review of research agendas and gap analysis.
  • Analysis of flagship projects in the Andes.
  • Stakeholder consultation of experts on the subject and actors involved in the implementation of adaptation actions in the region through an online survey and open interviews.

Lessons learnt: Knowledge gaps and associated needs

Based on the analysis of the conceptual, policy and management framework for CCA in the global context and in the Andes, we can conclude that the region has made significant progress in the development of a policy and institutional framework for CCA. At the same time, the results of the study show that the knowledge generated on the impacts and vulnerability of Andean socio-ecosystems to CC has advanced considerably in the last 20 years, with the consolidation of long-term continental monitoring networks being a fundamental contribution. However, there are still important knowledge gaps that limit the effective implementation of CCA policies and strategies in the region and therefore constitute opportunities for the generation of knowledge management tools and products and for the strengthening of ongoing initiatives. The following are the main needs to respond to these gaps, prioritised in light of the analysis carried out and the responses of the experts and decision-makers consulted:
  • There are important gaps in basic knowledge about climate change and its ecological and social impacts in the Andes. This raises the need to continue strengthening hydro-meteorological monitoring systems in the Andes, as well as long-term monitoring networks and comparative research.
  • It is necessary to analyse how different adaptation actions or solutions generate changes in the vulnerability, resilience and adaptive capacity of individuals, communities and Andean socio-ecosystems. There is aneed to propose tools and indicators for monitoring CCA projects or strategies.
  • It is important to generate and disseminate analysis documents and synthesis indicators of the state of health, impact and vulnerability of Andean ecosystems to CC at different scales.
  • Integrated analyses and comparative syntheses of the impacts of CC on ecosystem functioning and the ecosystem services they provide, the effects of different land-use strategies, and the benefits of ecosystem restoration and management in the Andes under CC scenarios are a priority to identify different adaptation options and management strategies.
  • It is necessary to promote processes of systematisation and comparison of different CCA strategies based on traditional management strategies and their integration with new technological options.
  • Comparative analyses of approaches, impacts and lessons learned from adaptation projects and strategies are required.
  • It is necessary to promote a more comprehensive or multisectoral vision of adaptation strategies. It is important to start from a transdisciplinary approach that analyses socio-ecosystems considering the environmental and ecological dimensions of adaptation strategies, as well as the opportunities for insertion and potential impacts in the social, economic and cultural context. ​​
  • Another priority is the development of vulnerability analyses that integrate social, economic, political, biophysical and institutional components and the generation of indicators to assess the adaptive capacity of local communities.
  • Work on analysing the most effective models of governance and the structural changes needed in governmental and non-governmental institutions for adaptation remains a priority issue despite the advances stemming from the national implementation of the UNFCCC.
  • There is a need to focus efforts on understanding how and how much ancestral and local practices contribute as adaptation measures to reduce the vulnerability of communities.
  • Not enough effort has been devoted to communicating information on the impacts of CC on Andean socio-ecosystems, so it is a priority to have the appropriate mechanisms in place to make the available information readily accessible to the public and, above all, to ensure that it reaches decision-makers in an effective way.

Suggested citation

Llambí L.D. & Garcés A. 2021. Adaptation to climate change in the Andes: Gaps in understanding and opportunities for knowledge management. Quito: CONDESAN.


This document has been generated within the framework of the A@A implemented by CONDESAN and the PBA, facilitated by the consortium Helvetas Perú – CONDESAN, both funded by the SDC. We are grateful for the support and contributions of Manuel Peralvo and María Arguello for the development of this overview, of Geovanna Lasso and María Teresa Becerra for their critical review of the texts, and of Isabel Espinoza and Ana Carolina Benítez for their contributions to the layout and dissemination.

We would also like to acknowledge the contribution of Robert Hofstede and María Teresa Becerra, whose synthesis work on the subject and literature suggestions were key. Finally, we would like to thank the focal points and professionals of the Andean Mountain Initiative (IAM, in Spanish), decisionmakers, experts and project coordinators consulted through interviews and the e-survey, who greatly enriched the document with their knowledge and extensive experience.

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