Ecosystem-based Approaches to Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Background and Goals

Stable and healthy ecosystems are essential for climate change mitigation and adaptation. This applies to many sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, tourism, urban planning and water resources management. Mitigation and adaptation measures using the ecosystem-based approach are becoming increasingly important as they offer a variety of benefits and are often considered to be more cost-effective solutions than purely technological approaches.

The goal of this project is to demonstrate that ecosystem-based approaches are not only conducive to nature conservation, but also can provide numerous benefits for other sectors. To this end, examples of projects using the ecosystem-based approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation within Germany, Austria and Switzerland will be documented and analyzed for barriers and success factors arising in their planning and implementation.

This study includes the following tasks:

  • Extensive literature review;
  • Identification and analysis of projects to develop and extend the application of the ecosystem-based approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation in the European German-speaking regions;
  • Detailed analysis of selected projects regarding the barriers and success factors encountered during their implementation;
  • Creation of a project database;
  • Development of a brochure and a set of best-practice guidelines;
  • Organization of an expert workshop to validate the results and to exchange experiences from the practical implementation of projects;


The brochure "Nature-based Solutions to Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation" is available online (

Content time


Research area/region

  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Swiss
Region of implementation (all German federal states)
  • Baden-Württemberg
  • Bavaria
  • Berlin
  • Brandenburg
  • Bremen
  • Hamburg
  • Hesse
  • Mecklenburg Western Pomerania
  • Lower Saxony
  • Northrhine-Westphalia
  • Rhineland Palatinate
  • Saarland
  • Saxony
  • Saxony-Anhalt
  • Schleswig-Holstein
  • Thuringia
Natural spatial classification
  • Alp and North Bavarian hills
  • Alps
  • Alpine Foothills
  • Erz Mountains, Thuringian Forest and Bavarian Forest
  • coasts: North Sea-/Baltic Sea coasts
  • Low mountain ranges left and right of Rhine
  • North-East German lowland
  • North-West German lowland
  • Upper Rhine Rift
  • South-Eeastern basin and hills
  • West German lowland bay
  • Central low mountain ranges and Harz

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

There are no specific climate scenarios considered: the latest information about climate change had been taken into account.

Parameter (climate signals)
  • River flooding
  • Heat waves
  • Flash floods
  • Altered rainfall patterns
  • Higher average temperatures
  • Sea level rise und storm surges
  • Low water
  • Extreme precipitation (incl. hail, snow)
  • Storm
  • Dry periods
Further Parameters 

All parameters that might affect the species and habitats. Information on the parameters can be found in the good practice examples.

Further times 

up to 2100

Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

There is no analysis of climate impacts: the focus is on the ecosystem services provided by ecosystems.

Ecosystems in the long term adapt to changing temperature and precipitation conditions, which can only succeed if they total remain intact and stable. Disturbed ecosystems can no longer provide a sufficient number of important benefits for humans. The conservation, restoration and sustainable use of ecosystems image, therefore, the basis of the "nature-based approaches" for climate change mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Ecosystems also have to adapt to long-term changing temperature and rainfall patterns, which is only possible if they remain intact and stable. Degraded ecosystems are not capable of providing many services which are crucial for human life. The maintenance, restoration, and sustainable use of ecosystems therefore form the basis of "nature-based approaches" to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

The core objectives of this research project are to increase awareness of the ecosystem-based approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Germany as well as Austria and Switzerland and thereby bring actors and institutions concerned with and interested in the topic together. These include agencies and institutions that are responsible for designing, planning and implementing climate change mitigation and adaptation measures as well as experts and scientists who deal with the approach.

Time horizon
  • 2071–2100 (far future)
Conflicts / synergies / sustainability 

Nature-based approaches can create synergies between different sectors and various policy objectives can be achieved.

Step 4: Plan and implement measures

Measures and/or strategies 

An expert workshop was carried out to validate the results and to exchange experiences in the practical implementation of projects. The aim of the workshop was to demonstrate the contribution of nature conservation measures to mitigation and climate change adaptation of different sectors (agriculture, forestry, water management, tourism, etc.). This was done by presenting good practice examples from German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). Furthermore, crucial success factors had been analyzed and policy recommendations were given to foster the promotion and implementation of ecosystem-based approaches. A documentation of the workshop is available

From the planning to conception and through the implementation and maintenance phases, various factors can play a determining role in a project’s degree of success. Project managers and experts with work experience in the field of nature-based projects have identified several success factors which are relevant to such projects, namely: building a strong network of actors, carrying out regular and sufficient levels public relations work targeting stakeholder groups, being transparent and building trust, and being open to new ideas and approaches.

Costs of the measures 

Costs are considered in several practical examples. In comparison to technology-based solutions, nature-based solutions are often regarded as more cost-effective.


Funding / Financing 

Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), Germany

Project management 

Ecologic Institute, Berlin (Germany)


Ecologic Institut gemeinnützige GmbH
Pfalzburger Straße 43/44
10717 Berlin

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Fields of action:
 biological diversity  human health and care  soil  spatial planning, urban and settlement development  tourism industry  water regime and water management  woodland and forestry  cross sectoral