By switching to dark mode you can reduce the energy consumption of our digital service.

The EcoAdapt Project

The EcoAdapt project assisted South American communities in developing their ecosystem-based adaptation strategies.
Multiple Authors


The EcoAdapt project assisted South American communities in developing their ecosystem-based adaptation strategies. EcoAdapt started in 2012 and was implemented in three ‘model forest’ landscapes in South America. The project was based on action-research, which not only helped scientists and policymakers tap into local knowledge and issues, but gave civil society organizations the opportunity to be protagonists in the research design and implementation. The main goal of the project was to support adaptation planning for water resources as a bottom-up process that requires ways to share and cogenerate knowledge between scientists and multiple stakeholders operating across different scales and policy areas. This framed the research which was conducted over four years and finished in 2016.

What is EcoAdapt?

Local participation in the Model Forest Chiquitano, Bolivia (Credit: C.E. Manchego)

The EcoAdapt project was designed based on the outcomes from two rounds of regional consultation with Latin American civil society organizations (CSOs) and scientists. The CSOs stated that watershed services were the most critical with respect to possible tensions and social conflicts that may arise due to climate change. Therefore, the project centred on watershed ecosystem services to develop climate adaptation strategies. Through an iterative process, it involved several actors in science-policy-civil society networks interacting at multiple scales. As a result, the EcoAdapt project also had an important capacity building component. Through interdisciplinary action-research, local communities, CSOs, and policy makers increased their collective capacity to adapt to climate change.

The project was built on two premises:

  1. Adaptation to climate change is not something that can be done in isolation
  2. Ecosystem-based management is a sound basis for successful adaptation to climate change in Latin America

In terms of methods, researchers combined exploratory scenario analysis, participatory backcasting, agent-based modelling and social validation via hybrid forums. In the last year, EcoAdapt implemented part of the adaptation strategies in pilot communities and built on existing networks for dissemination of lessons learned to other communities in Latin America and Europe.

EcoAdapt – Ecosystem‐based strategies and innovations in water governance networks in Latin American landscapes.

Project Outcomes

Model Forests are broad-based initiatives covering forests, farms, protected areas, rivers and towns. In EcoAdapt, scientists and civil society organizations working in the Model Forests collaborated to explore water governance issues in the context of local development and in the face of climate variability and change. Using a bottom-up process, the project facilitated the co-generation and sharing of knowledge among scientists and diverse stakeholders operating across scales and policy areas.

In all three sites, ecosystem-based adaptation strategies have been implemented alongside processes with a community-based adaptation component. The pilot activities chosen were tailored to each context and the time- frames and scales also varied.

Linking ecosystem- and community-based approaches required adopting a socio-ecological systems approach to adaptation to climate change. This means that not only the role of communities, institutions, and human rights and needs have to be taken into account, but also ecosystem functions, goods and services. Through EcoAdapt, we used the Model Forests as platforms to build partnerships between scientists and civil society to co-produce knowledge around ecosystem services and water governance.

Coordinated effort among different actor types working in multi-domain groups has the potential to enhance local adaptive capacity and create genuine interest in further knowledge co-production at the science-society interface.The project findings also show that studying social and institutional factors that affect water governance and adaptation decision making is an appropriate way to find concrete interventions that can generate a more comprehensive understanding of the problem and improve anticipation and adaptation planning for future water security. This approach is relevant and easily replicable in other multi actor forest landscapes worldwide (Devisscher et al. 2016).

Finally, considerably more effort is needed to strengthen the engagement that brings together the scientific community and the civil society using an action-research framework. This work should involve civil society in co-leading, framing, and driving the process, but also integrate innovative ways to reduce the potential trade-offs limiting the outcomes (Devisscher et al. 2016).

Further information and project outputs:

Peer-reviewed article: Understanding the socio-institutional context to support adaptation for future water security in forest landscapes

Peer-reviewed article: Ecoadapt – Adaptation to climate change for local development in model forests of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile: trade-offs for supporting robust local processes at the science-society interface

Integrating ecosystem- and community-based adaptation: Lessons from Model Forests in Latin America

EcoAdapt project: Cross-site Analysis of Ecosystem Based Adaptation in South America

EcoAdapt project: Working paper on social dynamics during adaptation planning

EcoAdapt project: Lessons Learned from the Analysis of Socio-Ecological Dynamics

EcoAdapt project: Socio-institutional context analysis

EcoAdapt project – Working paper on social dynamics during adaptation planning

EcoAdapt presentation: The importance of working at the science-society interface for adaptation to climate change in local territories of Latin America: case studies of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina

iModeler manual: a quick guide for fuzzy cognitive modelling

Cronología de los cambios en el paisaje de la región de la Araucanía desde 1850 hasta 2013

Participating Organisations

EcoAdapt has been a five-year, EU-funded action research project co-led by CIRAD, the French agricultural research and international cooperation organization, and CATIE, the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center, along with seven partners:

Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano (Quito, Ecuador) – a private not-for-profit organisation committed to promote constructive dialogue, strengthen citizen, political and institutional capacities and articulate processes towards sustainable development in Latin America.

Servicio Evangélico para el Desarrollo (Temuco, Chile) – a private ecumenical institution which manages and develops social, educational, cultural and productive projects.

Fundación para la Conservación del Bosque Chiquitano (Santa Cruz, Bolivia) – a private, nonprofit organisation which promotes the conservation and sustainable development in the Chiquitano forest.

Chiquitano Model Forest (Santa Cruz, Bolivia) – a land management platform based on voluntary participation of stakeholders, providing opportunities for cooperation, development, conservation, production and sustainability.

Asociación Bosque Modelo Jujuy (Jujuy, Argentina) – a civil non-profit organisation which administers the Model Forest Program in the Jujuy province of Argentina.

Stockholm Environment Institute (Oxford, UK) – an international non-profit research and policy organization that tackles environment and development challenges.

BMAAM (Valdivia, Chile) – a Model Forest located in Chile with legal status and part of the RIABM network.

Contact persons:

Tahia Devisscher: [email protected]

Add your project

Exchange your climate change adaptation projects and lessons learned with the global community.