Mangrove forests and coral reefs give a positive return on flood protection investments, the study finds

Coastal mangrove forests in Everglad City, Florida. Marie Hickman / Stone / Getty Images

Using benefit-risk analysis, the researchers found that mangrove forests and coral reefs could be cost-effective in reducing coastal flooding, the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) said in a statement. Using the techniques of the risk and insurance industry, the researchers were able to show that the benefits of reduced flood damage exceed the cost of restoring coral and mangrove forests, leading to a favorable return on investment.

The study “Return on investment to protect mangroves and flood reefs” was published in the journal Ecosystem services.

Researchers have found opportunities to restore mangrove forests that are profitable in 20 countries and territories, with Cuba, the United States and the Bahamas having the most profitable coastal training units.

The results of the study could mean new ways to support recovery with funding from places such as the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which supports disaster recovery, climate adaptation and mitigation, the statement said.

“We are identifying a number of sources of funding that traditionally support artificial gray infrastructure, such as concrete sea walls, and that could be applied to nature-based solutions,” said the lead author and research professor at the Institute of Marine Sciences. to UCSC Michael Beck, who chairs AXA on coastal resilience, in a press release.

Mangrove forests not only provide habitat for fish species, but also serve as a natural barrier against the effects of climate change that threaten coastal communities around the world, according to Mapping Ocean Wealth. Coastal vegetation has aerial roots that stop erosion and retain sediment. Roots and trunks, as well as the canopy, also reduce the strength of waves and storms to reduce floods and the resulting damage.

According to UCSC, the destruction of many coastal wetlands and coral reefs has made many of these natural buffer zones less effective as protectors of the coast, and obtaining funding for their restoration can be difficult.

As Beck pointed out, the cost of disaster recovery worldwide is more than 100 times the amount spent on conservation.

“Funding for recovery will increase as climate change increases the impact of storms, and environmental funding is likely to shrink as national budgets are strained by natural disasters,” Beck said in a statement. “Funding for artificial infrastructure such as sea walls can be redirected to natural defense, which provides many benefits beyond protecting the coast.

Demonstrating that recovery has a good return on investment, as shown by the study, may be key.

“This may sound esoteric, but it can be crucial in obtaining funding for recovery projects from sources such as FEMA,” Beck said.

Cuba and Jamaica have been identified by researchers as the places with the highest number of reef recovery opportunities, which is cost-effective, the study said.

“These benefits are critical in the Caribbean, where there is a significant increase in storm risk and significant habitat loss,” the study authors wrote.

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