The environmental impact of climate change adaptation on land use and water quality

Carlo Fezzi, Amii Harwood, Andrew Lovett, Ian Bateman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Encouraging adaptation is an essential aspect of the policy response to climate change1. 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 worldwide2, 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255–260
Number of pages6
JournalNature Climate Change
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2015


  • Climate Change
  • Land Use
  • Water Pollution

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