What is the Difference Between Adaptation and Mitigation?

Mitigation strategies aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to the atmosphere or enhance GHGs sequestration. In contrast, adaptation strategies aim to incorporate climate considerations into management planning and activities and help adjust ecosystems to projected future climate. Adaptation and mitigation strategies should be viewed as complementary strategies to achieve management goals and objectives.

Adaptation & Fire

Fire is a fundamental ecological disturbance process in southwest U.S. ecosystems. Climate change presents new challenges for managing wildland fires in fire-adapted ecosystems and near the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). Warmer annual and seasonal temperatures, increases in drought and heat-induced tree mortality, increases in vapor pressure deficit, decreases in relative humidity, and increases in fire season length are all affecting how we manage and plan for fire. Taking action now can help us inform future management, plan for increased wildfire activity across the U.S., and adapt our forests to changing fire regimes. 

There is no single answer on how to best adapt to climate change, and adaptation responses will vary by location based upon the magnitude of climate impacts, the inherent resilience of ecosystems, and the values and resources of local communities. However, there are resources to help land managers anticipate climate change impacts and identify actionable steps to adapt forests to changing fire regimes.

SWFireCAP, in collaboration with Collaborative Conservation and Adaptation Strategy Toolbox (CCAST), is developing case studies relevant to the SWFireCAP roundtable topics: Cultural Burning and On-the-Ground Adaptation. These resources will help managers understand and select from a wide variety of fire and climate informed actions that support adaptation in a changing climate.  

Find more information about the SWFireCAP and Collaborative Conservation & Adaptation Strategy Toolbox (CCAST) collaborative case studies on our Products page. Additional case studies are forthcoming. 

Adaptation Resources

Adaptation Concepts

Different conceptual frameworks may resonate with you depending on where you’re coming from. Use adaptation concepts to help you communicate what you’re trying to do through your management actions and to be explicit about your intent.

Learn from the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS) about Resistance-Resilience-Transition as a framework for climate response. Follow the link to find how this concept has been incorporated into adaptation menus. 

Follow the link to learn about the RAD framework from the National Park Service. RAD helps decision makers make informed, purposeful, and strategic climate adaptation choices. 

A study published in Communications Biology explores R-R-T as a continuous interval scale that encourages a nuanced combination of actions and outcomes for climate adaptation.

Adaptation Planning Frameworks

Climate-Smart Conservation: Putting Adaptation Principles into Practice is a guidance document that was created by an expert workgroup on climate-smart conservation convened by the National Wildlife Federation. Explore Table 5.1 (page 80-81) in this document for examples of climate adaptation planning frameworks and approaches. Select the one that works best for you.

Adaptation Menus

A ‘menu’ of adaptation strategies and approaches is a list that presents options and guidance for land resource managers to help brainstorm adaptation actions from broad strategies and approaches; in other words, they help take broad ideas, such as resistance, resilience, and transition, and turn them into on-the-ground actions to meet your management objectives. The adaptation actions (also called tactics) should be tailored to specific locations and conditions, based on the vulnerability assessment, priorities, and traditional and local knowledge.

The Tribal adaptation menu presents a collaborative approach for adaptation actions for natural resource management based on Ojibwe and Menominee perspectives, languages, concepts and values, it was developed for the use of indigenous communities, tribal natural resource agencies and their non-indigenous partners.

The Southwest FireClime in partnership with Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS) developed a menu to help land managers anticipate climate change impacts and identify actionable steps to adapt forests to changing fire regimes.