Coastal Protection

Storm protection services

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Science  05 Jul 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6448, pp. 41-42
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6448.41-c

Coastal mangrove forests near Krabi, Thailand

PHOTO: CRYSTITE RF/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

The tropics are at increasing risk of storm damage as the climate warms—a major worry, as coasts also concentrate human populations. Many coastlines in the tropics are, or once were, bordered by mangrove woodland. Mangroves colonize and stabilize the intertidal zone, not only providing habitats for terrestrial and marine organisms but also buffering storm surges, winds, and saline intrusion. However, these forests are at risk owing to land reclamation for building, agriculture, and other economic activities. Hochard et al. calculated the global value of mangroves in protecting human activities against tropical cyclone damage. From 23 mangrove-fringed countries, they observed human activity by satellite mapping of nighttime light. Regions with narrow (6-meter) strips of mangrove suffer greater permanent economic loss over the next 6 years than do communities protected by 25 meters of mangroves or more, despite disaster-mitigation responses. This work underscores the importance of restoring natural infrastructure for the benefit of vulnerable communities, as well as biodiversity.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 116, 12232 (2019).

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