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Handbook System for the Design and Implementation of EbA

This handbook system guides you through the process of designing, setting up, implementing, monitoring and up-scaling EbA interventions under the global Programme “Scaling Up Mountain Ecosystem-Based Adaptation: building evidence, replicating success, and informing policy."
Full Handbook cover photo


This handbook is based on the earlier publications Ecosystem-based Adaptation Handbook (Hernández, 2016), Making Ecosystem-based Adaptation Effective: A Framework for Defining Qualification Criteria and Quality Standards (FEBA, 2017) and Guidebook for Monitoring and Evaluating Ecosystem-based Adaptation Interventions (GIZ, UNEP-WCMC & FEBA, 2020). The contents of this handbook were applied by country teams of the Programme to take stock, generate learnings and replicate and consolidate what was implemented in the previous Flagship Programme (from 2012 to 2016), demonstrating its use is highly valuable at the out-set of projects. The utilization of the handbook system for implementation has been adapted into this publication with the aim to share these materials and methodology with the larger EbA community.

This document takes the EbA practitioner through the 7 stages of the EbA cycle, from selecting suitable sites for EbA interventions to supporting the process of mainstreaming EbA. Each stage is summarized and supported by resources and forms. The Forms help with recording information in a systematic manner, helping with decision making processes and ensuring consistency and comparability for particular aspects of EbA across interventions in different project sites. These Forms are best used at the starting point of any EbA project; however, they can be completed as the project advances.

This weADAPT article is an abridged version of the original text, which can be downloaded from the right-hand column. Please access the original text for more detail, research purposes, full references, or to quote text. 

Stage 0: Exploring EbA Viability

Before commencing any EbA project it is fundamental to determine if the site under consideration is viable for EbA interventions. The goal of Stage 0 is to verify if EbA is a suitable option. A rapid scoping to assess whether the target site, its people, and existing institutions and policies allow for the implementation of EbA can support the ‘go’ or ‘no-go’ decision.

Because EbA works to help communities build climate resilience through the delivery of ecosystem services, the focus is on securing ecosystem services that benefit communities to increase their adaptive capacity and reduce climatic risks.

Examples of ecosystem services that support climate resilience in mountains include freshwater supply, erosion and flood control, and protection against landslides. These services are at the core of any EbA intervention and should be maintained through a solid adaptation strategy that involves sound environmental governance, sustainable land use practices, and ecosystem restoration and conservation.

See the full publication for interactive forms for Stage 0 (p.5). 

Stage 1: Understanding the Context and EbA Goals

Similar to other types of social or environmental intervention, the first step is to understand the local context. This is one of the objectives of Stage 1 as it involves exploring different elements of the context at the site under consideration. After retrieving all the information required, it is possible to define the EbA goals. For this stage it is key to conduct secondary research and interviews as well as participatory research involving community members and other relevant stakeholders.

See the full publication for interactive forms to work on stage 1 (p.6). 

Stage 2: Assessing Climate Risks

According to the IPCC AR6, climate-related risks result from the interaction of hazards, vulnerability, and exposure. Therefore, a climate risk assessment (Stage 2) is essential to determine future climate hazards and their potential impacts on a particular socio-ecological system. It also helps identify climate vulnerabilities through two main elements, sensitivity to harm and lack of capacity to cope and adapt. Finally, it allows to identify the degree of exposure of the system, which can be expressed by absolute numbers, densities or proportions of the elements at risk (e.g. population density in an area affected by flood). Understanding all of these components is fundamental to prioritize climate action and investment in adaptation, and in this particular case, to identify the best EbA options to reduce risks and contribute to the climate-resilient development of the proposed site. Some examples of climate-related risks in mountain communities include:

  • Damages to life and infrastructure due to floods and landslides
  • Losses in crop production, due to compound heat and dry conditions, and extreme weather
  • Risk to food and water security due to increased temperature extremes, rainfall variability and drought 

See the full publication for interactive forms for Stage 2 (p.7). 

Credit: IUCN (2022)

Stage 3: Rapid ecosystem services appraisal

The objective of Stage 3 is to identify the local ecosystem services, how these services contribute to building climate resilience, and how the provisioning of these services is impacted by specific drivers. Adaptation services are defined as the benefits to people provided by the capacity of ecosystems to moderate and adapt to climate change and variability. In other words, adaptation services are ecosystem services that are useful in terms of climate resilience: for instance freshwater supply, flood control and protection against storm surge.

See the full publication for interactive forms to assist with stage 3 (p.8). 

Stage 4: EbA Strategy and Designing EbA Measures

Stage 4 focuses on building the EbA strategy, defining adaptation priorities, and designing EbA measures. Understanding the local climate-related risks (Stage 2) and key ecosystem services available (Stage 3) are essential for designing appropriate EbA measures, to build resilience for both communities and ecosystems facing the impacts of climate change. An EbA measure refers to a single intervention or a suite of integrated interventions that contribute to an overall strategy to build resilience and adapt to climate change. Some examples of EbA measures are: reforestation or afforestation; grassland seeding, water channelling; livestock management; wetland, grassland, or forest restoration; biodiversity and soil conservation; water storage, aquifer or spring recovery; flood and landslide risk abatement; agroforestry; climate-smart agriculture; or sustainable livestock production.

See the full publication for forms to help complete stage 4 (p.9). 

Stage 5: Monitoring & Evaluation

The goal of Stage 5 is to propose a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework for monitoring the effectiveness of EbA measures. Setting up a M&E system is fundamental to ensure effective adaptation by supporting the long-term process of learning about “what works” and providing a tool for practitioners to manage their work in the context of the uncertainty surrounding climate change impacts.

This stage focuses on developing indicators for the EbA measures selected through the completion of Form 5 – Monitoring and Evaluation These should address as many of the five EbA Qualification Criteria as possible (refer to these in Form 4, Section III).

When designing indicators for measuring EbA effectiveness, it is important to consider the following:

  • Because there is much uncertainty when it comes to adaptation, there is no single set of universal or standard adaptation indicators (unlike for example, the use of carbon dioxide emission reduction as the indicator for mitigation).
  • There are two types of indicators: process-based and results-based:
    • Process- based indicators provide information on the design and implementation of an intervention by focusing on input and output.
    • On the other hand, results indicators measure the effectiveness of an intervention by focusing on outcome and impact.

See the full publications for forms to complete Stage 5 (p.10). 

Stage 6: Implementing the EbA strategy and measures

To prepare implementation of the identified EbA measures (Stage 6), a planning and allocation of roles must be made. EbA measures must strengthen climate resilience on site as well as at broader levels according to previously defined goals:

  • Define clear roles and responsibilities for implementing EbA measures (e.g. institutional and community roles) and allocate corresponding budgets to those involved.
  • Define who does what, when, using which resources.
  • Set up a team for monitoring and evaluating EbA progress at a broader watershed level (if possible)

There is no standardized program form for planning and allocating the work related directly to EbA measure implementation.

See the full publication for forms to assist in the completion of Stage 6 (p.11). 

Stage 7: Mainstreaming EbA in policy and promoting synergies

Stage 7 involves the integration of adaptation objectives, strategies, policies, and measures so that they become part of the national and regional development policies, processes, and budgets at all levels and stages. This mainstreaming can contribute to sustainable development initiatives while reducing climate risks by enhancing the effectiveness, efficiency, and longevity of EbA interventions. It also facilitates informing policies, supporting new EbA initiatives, and promoting the approach at a larger scale. 

See the full publication for forms guiding stage 7 (p.12). 

Suggested Citation: 

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (2022). Handbook System for the Design and Implementation of Ecosystem-based Adaptation in Mountains. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Suggested Citation:

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (2022). Handbook System for the Design and Implementation of Ecosystem-based Adaptation in Mountains. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

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