Coastal wetlands dramatically reduce property losses during hurricanes

Posted: September 1, 2017 by oldbrew in government, research, Uncertainty, weather

Texan wetland [image credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept.]

This study reported on the U.S. East Coast, but all ideas for protection of increasingly populated coastal areas from severe weather should be under the microscope after the recent floods in Texas. reporting.

With the Atlantic hurricane season well under way and Tropical Storm Harvey causing devastation in Texas, a new scientific study reports that coastal wetlands significantly reduce annual flood losses and catastrophic damages from storms.

Led by a team of scientists from the engineering, insurance, and conservation sectors, including researchers at UC Santa Cruz, the study found that coastal wetlands in the northeast United States prevented $625 million in direct flood damages during Hurricane Sandy, reducing damages by more than 22 percent in half of the affected areas and by as much as 30 percent in some states.

The study, published August 31 in Scientific Reports, quantified the flood reduction benefits provided by coastal wetlands across the northeastern United States during Hurricane Sandy, as well as the benefits provided annually in Barnegat Bay in Ocean County, New Jersey.

It used the risk industry’s latest and most rigorous high-resolution flood and loss models and an extensive database of property exposure to show the correlations between property value and wetland presence, and between wetland extent and avoided flood damages.

The vast majority of public and private funding for coastal infrastructure goes toward built structures (e.g., concrete), with only about 3 percent going to restoration of natural infrastructure (e.g., wetlands), according to a recent analysis by UC Santa Cruz researchers.

The authors of the new study said their findings make a clear case for reallocation of this coastal investment portfolio, particularly after disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. “Wetlands can be incredibly effective at reducing property damages from catastrophic storms, and these effects can be clearly understood by combining state-of-art engineering models with coastal ecology and economic analysis,” said lead author Siddharth Narayan, a coastal engineer at UC Santa Cruz.

“Coastal habitats provide benefits that represent hundreds of millions of dollars in annual savings along the U.S. East Coast.”

Continued here.
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Hurricane History Facts

  1. spetzer86 says:

    Of course, not building homes and businesses on flood plains or near coasts where hurricanes / tropical storms are known to cause extensive damage would probably reduce costs just a smidge.

  2. Curious George says:

    Thanks God for these brilliant scientists who figured out that a hurricane causes much less damage in wetlands than in a city. A novel thinking as well 😉

  3. daveburton says:

    Fortunately, research indicates that elevated CO2 level is very helpful for coastal wetlands, because it helps salt marshes resist encroachment by rising sea-level, thanks to the CO2 fertilization effect: extra CO2 helps C3-photosynthesis wetlands vegetation grow better.

    But the benefits of elevated CO2 for wetlands are dwarfed by its benefits for arid areas. Extra CO2 not only helps C3 & CAM plants grow faster and healthier, it also makes C3 & C4 plants more water-efficient, which helps them resist drought. As a result to those two benefits, arid regions, especially, are greening.

    Even the extremely politicized & wildly alarmist Natural Geographic admits that anthropogenic climate change is “greening” deserts, though they couldn’t quite bring themselves to say it’s the CO2 that’s responsible. Here’s an excerpt:

    Images taken between 1982 and 2002 revealed extensive regreening throughout the Sahel, according to a new study in the journal Biogeosciences.

    The study suggests huge increases in vegetation in areas including central Chad and western Sudan. …

    In the eastern Sahara area of southwestern Egypt and northern Sudan, new trees—such as acacias—are flourishing, according to Stefan Kröpelin, a climate scientist at the University of Cologne’s Africa Research Unit in Germany.

    “Shrubs are coming up and growing into big shrubs. This is completely different from having a bit more tiny grass,” said Kröpelin, who has studied the region for two decades. …

    “Before, there was not a single scorpion, not a single blade of grass,” he said.

    “Now you have people grazing their camels in areas which may not have been used for hundreds or even thousands of years. You see birds, ostriches, gazelles coming back, even sorts of amphibians coming back,” he said.

    “The trend has continued for more than 20 years. It is indisputable.”

  4. “Coastal wetlands dramatically reduce property losses during hurricanes”

    This is true only because coastal wetlands are not inhabited. True also about floodplains of rivers, slopes of active volcanoes and slopes subject to landslides.

    If people avoid these risky sites, losses of life and property would be much less.

    The 2004 tsunami caused the deaths of 230,000–280,000 people in 14 countries, Not so on Penang Island, Malaysia. On the west coast of Penang Island, the state and federal governments had replanted mangroves on land that has never been alienated to the private sector. On Penang Island, about 20 people were killed who had camped overnight on a low-lying beach. On the north shore of the island, several traditional wooden houses near the coast were destroyed and many of the occupants were killed.

    Low loss of life was not due to the mangrove wetland, but to colonial laws carried forward to the present that prohibit building in risky environments.

  5. oldbrew says:

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