The environmental impact of climate change adaptation on land use and water quality
Harwood, Amii R.
Lovett, Andrew A.
Nature Climate Change
Nature Publishing Group
Encouraging adaptation is an essential aspect of the policy response to climate change. Adaptation seeks to reduce the harmful consequences and harness any beneficial opportunities arising from the changing climate. However, given that human activities are the main cause of environmental transformations worldwide, it follows that adaptation itself also has the potential to generate further pressures, creating new threats for both local and global ecosystems. From this perspective, policies designed to encourage adaptation may conflict with regulation aimed at preserving or enhancing environmental quality. This aspect of adaptation has received relatively little consideration in either policy design or academic debate. To highlight this issue, we analyse the trade-offs between two fundamental ecosystem services that will be impacted by climate change: provisioning services derived from agriculture and regulating services in the form of freshwater quality. Results indicate that climate adaptation in the farming sector will generate fundamental changes in river water quality. In some areas, policies that encourage adaptation are expected to be in conflict with existing regulations aimed at improving freshwater ecosystems. These findings illustrate the importance of anticipating the wider impacts of human adaptation to climate change when designing environmental policies.
European Commission (EC)
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
WEPGN, Brock University
Author's post print version. The version of record is available from the publisher via: doi:10.1038/nclimate2525
© 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved
Vol. 5, pp. 255 - 260