Adaptation practices options and constraints

13.5.1 Practices and options

135.1.1 Natural ecosystems

Some options to increase the capacity to adapt to climate change include the reduction of ecosystem degradation in Latin America through the improvement and reinforcement of policy, planning and management. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), Biringer et al. (2005), FAO (2004b), Laurance et al. (2001), Brown et al. (2000) and Nepstad et al. (2002), these options are basically as follows.

• In the government context: integrate decision-making between different departments and sectors and participate in international institutions in order to ensure that policies are focused on the protection of ecosystems.

• Identify and exploit synergies: taking advantage of synergies between proposed and existing adaptation policies and actions can provide significant benefits to both endeavours (Biringer et al., 2005).

• Procure the empowerment of marginalised groups so as to influence the decisions that affect them and their ecosystem services, and campaign for legal recognition of local communities' ownership of natural resources. This option is the key to reducing the incidence of forest fires.

• Include sound valuation and management of ecosystem services in all regional planning decisions and in poverty reduction strategies, e.g., Noel Kempff Mercado Climate Action Project in Bolivia and Río Bravo Carbon Sequestration Pilot Project in Belize.

• Establish additional protected areas, particularly the biological or ecological corridors, for preserving the connections between protected areas, with the aim of preventing the fragmentation of natural habitats. Some programmes and projects involving actions with different degrees of implementation are: the Meso-American Biological Corridor; Binational Corridors (e.g., Tariquía-Baritú between Argentina and Bolivia, Vilcabamba-Amboro between Peru and Bolivia, Cóndor Kutukú between Peru and Ecuador, Chocó-Manabí between Ecuador and Colombia), the natural corridor projects under way in Brazil's Amazon region and the Atlantic forests of Colombia (e.g., Corredor Biológico Guácharos-Puracé and Corredor de Bosques Altoandinos de Roble); those in Venezuela (e.g., Corredor Biológico de la Sierra de Portuguesa), Chile (e.g., Corredor entre la Cordillera de los Andes y la Cordillera de la Costa and Proyecto Gondwana), and some initiatives in Argentina (e.g., Iniciativa Corredor de Humedales del Litoral Fluvial de la Argentina, Corredor Verde de Misiones, and Proyecto de Biodiversidad Costera).

• Tropical countries in the region can reduce deforestation through adequate funding of programmes designed to enforce environmental legislation, support for economic alternatives to extensive forest clearing (including carbon crediting), and building capacity in remote forest regions, as recently suggested in part of the Brazilian Amazon (Nepstad et al., 2002; Fearnside, 2003). Moreover, substantial amounts of forest can be saved in protected areas if adequate funding is available (Bruner et al., 2001; Pimm et al., 2001).

• Monitoring and evaluating (M&E) adaptation strategy impacts on biodiversity. The process of monitoring change in biological systems can be complex and resource-intensive, requiring involved observation and data collection, painstaking analysis, etc. Care should be taken to ensure that an M&E plan is developed which ensures a robust yet streamlined M&E process (Biringer et al., 2005).

• Agroforestry using agroecological methods offers strong possibilities for maintaining biological diversity in Latin America, given the overlap between protected areas and agricultural zones (Morales et al., 2007).

135.12 Agriculture and forestry

Some adaptation measures aiming to reduce climate change impacts have been proposed in the agricultural sector. For example, in Ecuador, options such as agro-ecological zoning and appropriate sowing and harvesting seasons, the introduction of higher-yielding varieties, installation of irrigation systems, adequate use of fertilisers, and implementation of a system for controlling pests and disease were proposed (NC-Ecuador, 2000). In Guyana several adjustments relating to crop variety (thermal and moisture requirements and shorter-maturing varieties), soil management, land allocation to increase cultivable area, using new sources of water (recycling of wastewater), harvesting efficiency, and purchases to supplement production (fertilisers and machinery) were identified (NC-Guyana, 2002).

In other countries, adaptation measures have been assessed by means of crop simulation models. For example, in the Pampas region of Argentina, anticipating planting dates and the use of wheat and maize genotypes with longer growth cycles would take advantage of projected longer growing seasons as a result of the shortening of the period when frosts may occur (Magrin and Travasso, 2002). More recently, Travasso et al. (2006) reported that, in South Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, the negative impacts of future climate on maize and soybean production could be offset by changing planting dates and adding supplementary irrigation.

In terms of food security, a significant number of smallholders and subsistence farmers may be particularly vulnerable to climate change in the short term, and their adaptation options may be more limited. Of particular concern are farmers in Central America, where drying trends have been reported, and in the poorer regions of the Andes. Adaptations in these communities may involve policies for market development of new and existing crop and livestock products, breeding drought-tolerant crops, modified farm-management practices, and improved infrastructure for off-farm employment generation. Increasingly, cross-sectoral perspectives are needed when considering adaptation options in these communities (Jones and Thornton, 2003; Eakin, 2005). In dry areas of northeastern Brazil, where small farmers are among the social groups most vulnerable to climate change, the production of vegetable oils from native plants (e.g., castor bean) to supply the bio-diesel industry has been proposed as an adaptation measure (La Rovere et al., 2006).

A global study (which includes case studies of northern Argentina and south-eastern Brazil) concluded that in northern Argentina occasional problems in water supply for agriculture under the current climate may be exacerbated by climate change, and may require timely improvements in crop cultivars, irrigation and drainage technology, and water management. Conversely, in south-eastern Brazil, future water supply for agriculture is likely to be plentiful (Rosenzweig et al., 2004).

As a way of avoiding the consequences of deforestation as a likely impact on the regional climate, several measures are currently being initiated in the region and are likely to be intensified in the future. Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and Peru have adopted new forestry laws and policies that include better regulatory measures, sustainability principles, expansion of protected areas, certification of forestry products and expansion of forest plantations into non-forested areas (Tomaselli, 2001). In the Brazilian Amazon state of Mato Grosso, where 18,000 km2 of forest and savannas were converted to pasture and soybean fields in 2003, requirements for licensing of deforestation and environmental certification of soybean have been introduced as a way to preserve the environment. A similar proposal is under development for the Mato Grosso cattle industry (Nepstad, 2004). Most countries provide incentives for managing their native forests: exemption from land taxes (Chile, Ecuador), technical assistance (Ecuador), and subsidies (Argentina, Mexico and Colombia) (UNEP, 2003a). Chile and Guyana demand prior studies on environmental impact before approving forestry projects, depending upon their importance; Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica and Brazil are already applying forestry certification. Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Costa Rica and Mexico have established model forests designed to demonstrate the application of sustainable management, taking into account productive and environmental aspects, and with the wide participation of civilian society, including community and indigenous groups.

135.1.3 Water resources

Water management policies in Latin America should be the central point of the adaptation criteria to be established in order to strengthen the countries' capacities to manage water resources availability and demand, and ensure the safety of people and protection of their belongings under changing climatic conditions. In this regard, the principal actions for adaptation must include: improvement and further development of legislation related to land use on floodplains, ensuring compliance with existing regulations of risk zones, floodplain use and building codes; re-evaluating the design and safety criteria of structural measures for water management; developing groundwater protection and restoration plans to maintain water storage for dry seasons; developing public awareness campaigns to highlight the value of rivers and wetlands as buffers against increased climate variability and to improve participation of vulnerable groups in flood adaptation and mitigation programmes (IRDB, 2000; Bergkamp et al., 2003; Solanes and Jouravlev, 2006).

Adaptation to drier conditions in 60% of the territory of Latin America would require a great increase in the amount of investment in water supply systems, in addition to the US$17.7 billion needed to accomplish the provision of safe water systems to 121 million people, necessary to achieve the Millennium Declaration for Safe Water goals by 2015 (even though this would leave 10% of the population of Latin America without access to safe water) (IDB, 2004).

Managing transbasin diversions has been the solution for water development in some regions of the world, particularly in California. In Latin America, transbasin transfers in Yacambú basin (Venezuela), Catamayo-Chira basins (Ecuador and Peru), Alto Piura and Mantaro basins (Peru), and the Sao Francisco River (Brazil) would be an option to mitigate the likely stresses on water supply for the population. Transbasin diversions should be practiced responsibly, taking into account environmental consequences and the hydrological regime (Vásquez, 2004; Marengo and Raigoza, 2006).

The use of urban and rural groundwater needs to be controlled and rationalised, taking into account the quality, distribution and trends over time identified in each region. To develop sustainable groundwater and aquifer management, the rules to apply would be: limit or reduce the consequences of excessive abstractions, slow down growth of abstractions, explore possibilities for artificial aquifer recharge, and evaluate options for planned mining of groundwater storage (IRDB, 2000; World Bank, 2002b; Solanes and Jouravlev, 2006). Water conservation practices, re-use of water, water recycling by modification of industrial processes and optimisation of water consumption bring opportunities for adaptation to water-stressed periods (COHIFE, 2003).

135.1.4 Coasts

Future adaptation of coastal systems in Latin America is mostly based on coastal zone management, monitoring and protection plans (see Sections and 13.4.4) which are not specific for climate variability and change and are not yet fully implemented. However, the current coastal environmental framework should be an important support for implementing adaptation options to climate change. Table 13.8 shows some examples of practices and options related to adaptations to climate change.

Most fishing countries have regulations governing access to their fishing grounds (e.g., Argentina, Chile and Ecuador) and others have been drafting new legislation in order to control the use of coastal and fishing resources and to introduce adaptation measures (e.g., Costa Rica, Guyana, Panama, Peru, Venezuela). A number of regional agreements have also been signed on the protection of the marine environment, the prevention of pollution from marine or terrestrial sources, and the management of commercial fisheries (Young, 2001; UNEP, 2002; Bidone and Lacerda, 2003; OAS-CIDI, 2003). Brazil and Costa Rica ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, 2005), related to the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks2 and highly migratory fish stocks.

Coastal biodiversity could be maintained, and even improved, through sustainable use by promoting community management to make conservation a part of sustainable development of coastal resources such as mangroves and their artisanal fisheries. In this regard, Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala, Brazil and Nicaragua have promoted initiatives to develop the necessary local community participation in the managed forest of coastal zones (Kovacs, 2000; Windevoxhel and Sención, 2000; Yáñez-Arancibia and Day, 2004; FAO, 2006).

135.15 Human health

There are many initiatives that should be implemented in order to deal with different health impacts due to climate change in Latin American countries. Awareness regarding impacts should be enhanced in the region, including community involvement (see Chapter 8, Section 8.6.1). One main shortcoming is that a lack of information adversely affects decision-making, so research and human-resource training are fundamental. Therefore, one of the main tasks to support research and decision-making is to build up statistical information relating health conditions and events to the corresponding climate and related environmental issues (e.g., floods, tornados, landslides, etc.), based on a strengthened surveillance system for climate-sensitive diseases (see Chapter 8, Section 8.6) (Anderson, 2006). It is essential to establish a regular channel of communication -with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) to report and classify such information, to integrate the data into a regionalisation of sanitary/health conditions, and thus improve early warnings of epidemics. The advantages of international initiatives such as the Global Health Watch 2005-2006 - not simply as a recipient of information but also as a provider of information - should also be considered. The assessments should take into account human health vulnerability and public health adaptation to climate change.

As human health is a result of the interplay between many different sectors, it is important to consider the impacts in the water sector in order to identify the measures focusing on the surveillance of water-borne diseases and vulnerable populations, as well as impacts from the agricultural sector, biodiversity, natural resources, air pollution and drought. An important concern relating to health is the implications of increased human migration and changes in disease patterns; this implies greater intergovernmental coordination and cross-boundary actions. Future analysis based on ecological niche modelling for disease vectors will be very useful

Table 13.8. Adaptation practices and options for Latin American coasts: selected countries.

Country/Study Climate scenario Adaptation (practices and options)/costs


(NC-Ecuador, 2000)

LANM2 (+1.0 m)

Protection against severe scenario conditions: coastal defence of Guayas river basin at a cost of less than US$2 billion with benefits two to three times greater; reforestation of mangroves and preservation of flooded areas to protect 1,204 km2 and shrimp farms (the shrimp industry is the country's third largest export item) against flooding.


(NC-Guyana, 2002)

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