Reducing Coastal Risk with Natural Defenses: The Latest Ecology, Engineering, and Economics of Natural Infrastructure with Mike Beck of TNC and UCSC
Wetlands and reefs serve as barriers, buffers, and breakwaters from rising seas, swell, and storm surge. Until recently, it was not possible to put a value on the flood damages – to people and property – that these coastal habitats avert. This is changing rapidly, however, and recent studies are showing surprising results. Salt marshes can reduce annual flood damages by at least 15 percent. Mangroves can reduce annual flood damages to people and property by 25 percent across the entire nation of the Philippines – a nation that sees more super storms and typhoons than almost anywhere else. And coral reefs reduce up to 97 percent of wave energy that would otherwise hit coastlines, averting hundreds of millions of dollars in flood in flood damages every year. The protection from coastal habitats is cost-effective as well, particularly when compared to built or gray infrastructure such as seawalls or dikes. A new study uses insurance industry-based models to show that every $1 spent on restoring marshes and oyster reefs on the American Gulf Coast reduces storm damages by $7. This talk will summarize high-level findings from the latest research on the ecology, engineering, and economics of natural infrastructure.