Helping people and ecosystems adapt to environmental change
Protected areas such as national parks are key to helping communities and nature adapt to a changing climate. They build resilience to climate change globally, buffer the impacts of extreme climate events, underpin important ecosystem services such as food and water provision and protect biodiversity.
Maintaining healthy protected areas under climate change requires knowledge that is relevant, accessible and easily integrated into policy, planning and management.
This Luc Hoffmann Institute project is developing methodologies to enable the adaptive management of protected areas so they can continue to support biodiversity conservation, local communities and economies into the future.
The project team works with Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia (Colombia National Parks) to develop interdisciplinary methods that connect projections of climate impacts with social science insights into policy and management challenges. This ‘futures thinking’ helps protected area planners and managers take decisions in the context of change and uncertainty.
Working in two pilot sites – the Amazon piedmont and the Otun watershed in the coffee growing region – the project aims to ensure that adaptation and the future expansion of the protected area network draws on the best available knowledge to maintain ecosystem services in the face of climate change.
The project has helped revise the criteria for the IUCN Green List Standard for Protected Areas, specifically by stressing the need to include adaptive governance indicators and mainstreaming climate considerations into the standard.
The project has also helped Parques Naturales Nacionales de Colombia (PNN) fulfil its commitments under the REDPARQUES declaration. REDPARQUES is a technical body consisting of public and private institutions and specialists from 18 member (Latin American) countries working in the realm of protected areas and wildlife. Its objective is to increase technological and management capacity, based on the exchange of experiences and knowledge among its members. Through the declaration, member countries recognise the important role of protected areas in mitigating and adapting to climate change.
The project’s methodology will be integrated into a Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded project that aims to strengthen Colombia’s National System of Protected Areas. It will also serve as a tool to guide the effectiveness of protected area management, a major goal of the GEF project.
WWF Colombia will use one of the project’s methodologies – Protected Areas – Benefits Assessment Tools (PA-BAT) to assess management effectiveness. The PA-BAT is primarily designed to be used by protected area managers working with stakeholders to identify important values and benefits that protected areas bring. It is also possible that PA-BAT is implemented in the process of creating new protected areas in Colombia
The methodology and outputs have been key elements in the design of a Project Finance Strategy for National Parks of Colombia. This strategy resulted from an agreement and commitment from several NGOs working in Colombia including WWF Colombia, Wildlife Conservation Society and other local NGOs, as well as the Colombian Government, to build a financial strategy to strengthen the functioning of the country’s national parks for the next 30 years.
Relationship building has been a key component of this project – particularly between WWF Colombia and its partners, and Parques Nacionales (PNN). The relationship between Colombia and Australia has been bolstered through Claudia Munera, Conservation Futures Fellow, Lorrae van Kerkhoff of Australian National University (ANU) and Michael Dunlop of CSIRO presenting the project at the Colombian Embassy in Australia.
Other conservation and academic institutions in Colombia, including the Humboldt Institute and Javierana University have shown an interest in becoming more involved in the work.
Main image: Colombia © Pablo Corral / WWF