Improving Nature’s 'Living Infrastructure' Can Limit the Impact of Big Storms

November 13, 2013

Dr. Jane Carter Ingram, director of the WCS Ecosystem Services Program, explains how investment in coastal ecosystems can reduce the risks associated with catastrophic storms.

This year was predicted to have an abnormal hurricane season, with higher than average occurrences of Category 3, 4 and 5 storms.

After witnessing Hurricane Sandy, we can all imagine the devastating social and economic impacts of similar extreme weather events — stretching the ability of governments to respond and rebuild ravaged communities. Even as Super Typhoon Haiyan provides yet another tragic example of the destruction that an abnormally strong storm can cause, the twin storms Ingrid and Manuel, which devastated Mexico in September, demonstrate how even relatively weak storms can wreak havoc on vulnerable places.

The increasing threat of catastrophic storms coincides with an era of global austerity. With funds already limited for meeting basic societal needs, we must find cost-effective, practical and robust ways to reduce risks to people and property.

Built infrastructure is a common way to reduce the impacts of weather hazards. Such man-made projects can be effective but expensive to implement, and may cause a cascade of unintended economic, social, and ecological consequences. We also know levees and floodwalls are not fail-proof, as 2005's Hurricane Katrina demonstrated.

One increasingly appealing alternative comes from nature conservation, a field often associated more narrowly with the protection of wildlife and wild habitat.

Read the full article on Global Post >>
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