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Study shows mangrove and reef restoration yield positive returns on investment for flood protection

Research shows that mangrove and reef restoration delivers positive return on investment for flood protection

Mangroves provide valuable protection for coastlines around the world. Credit: Jessica Kendall-Bar

A new analysis shows that restoration of mangroves and coral reefs could be a cost-effective solution for mitigating coastal flooding in more than 20 countries in the Caribbean.

The study, published May 28 in the journal Ecosystem Servicesmethods from the risk and insurance industry used to provide rigorous valuations of these natural defenses and demonstrate that they can provide a positive return on investment, with the benefits of reduced flood damage outweighing the restoration costs.

The results point to new opportunities to support recovery efforts with resources from sources that support risk mitigation, climate adaptation and disaster recovery, including the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“We are identifying a number of funding sources that traditionally support artificial ‘grey infrastructure’, such as concrete seawalls, and that can be applied to nature-based solutions,” said lead author Michael Beck, a research professor at the Institute of Marine. Science at UC Santa Cruz, which holds the AXA Chair in Coastal Resilience.

Coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves act as natural barriers to waves and storm surges, reducing flood damage to people and property. In many places, however, the degradation of coastal reefs and wetlands has diminished their natural ability to protect coastlines from flooding and erosion. Effective strategies exist to restore these critical ecosystems, but funding for restoration projects can be difficult to come by.

Onderzoek toont aan dat herstel van mangrove en rif een positief rendement op investeringen voor bescherming tegen overstromingen oplevertEcosystem Services†

Restoring mangroves and coral reefs can provide a positive return on investment. This map of the Caribbean shows potential mangrove recovery sites, with the size and color of circles representing benefit-cost ratios. The large yellow circles indicate ratios greater than 15:1, estimated based on a 30-year project duration with a discount rate of 4%. Credit: Beck et al., Ecosystem Services

Beck noted that global disaster recovery spending is more than 100 times greater than conservation spending. “Restoration funding will increase as climate change magnifies the impact of storms, and environmental funding is likely to dwindle as national budgets are under pressure from natural disasters,” he said.

The study points to opportunities to align conservation, flood risk reduction and climate adaptation to reduce storm risks. “Financing for man-made infrastructure such as sea defenses can be diverted to natural defenses, which provide multiple benefits beyond coastal protection,” Beck said.

The results of the return on investment study are robust to changes in discount rates and the timing of flood protection benefits, he added. “This may sound esoteric, but getting funding for restoration projects from sources like FEMA can be critical,” he said.

The researchers identified specific locations where there could be a significant return on investment for the restoration of coral reefs and mangroves in the Caribbean.


Coral reefs prevent more than $5.3 billion in potential flood damage for US property owners


More information:
Michael W. Beck et al, Return on investment for mangrove and reef protection against flooding, Ecosystem Services (2022). DOI: 10.116/j.ecoser.2022.101440

Provided by University of California – Santa Cruz


Quote: Study shows mangrove and reef restoration yields positive return on investment for flood protection (2022, June 17), retrieved June 17, 2022 at https://phys.org/news/2022-06-mangrove-reef yield-positive investment. html

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