The role of ecosystems in disaster risk reduction

Renaud, F.G. et al., 2013. United Nations University Press

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Abstract

The increasing worldwide trend in disasters, which will be aggravated by global environmental change (including climate change), urges us to implement new approaches to hazard mitigation, as well as exposure and vulnerability reduction. We are, however, faced with hard choices about hazard mitigation: should we continue to build dikes and walls to protect ourselves against floods and coastal hazards – though we have seen the limits of these – or should we consider alternative, ecosystem-based solutions? Ecosystem management is a well-tested solution to sustainable development that is being revisited because of its inherent “win-win” and “no-regrets” appeal to address rising disaster and climate change issues. It is one of the few approaches that can impact all elements of the disaster risk equation – mitigating hazards, reducing exposure, reducing vulnerabilities and increasing the resilience of exposed communities. Yet, the uptake of ecosystem-based approaches for disaster risk reduction (DRR) is slow despite some very good examples of success stories. Reasons for this are multiple: ecosystem management is rarely considered as part of the portfolio of DRR solutions because the environmental and disaster management communities typically work independently from each other; its contribution to DRR is highly undervalued compared to engineered solutions and thus not attributed appropriate budget allocations; finally, there are poor science-policy interactions on ecosystem-based DRR, which have led to unclear and sometimes contradictory scientific information on the role of ecosystems for DRR. The aim of this book is to provide an overview of knowledge and practice in this multi-disciplinary field of ecosystem management and DRR. It contains 17 chapters written by 57 professionals from the science and practice communities around the world, representing state-of-the-art knowledge, practices and perspectives on the topic. It will serve as a basis to encourage and further develop dialogues between scientists, practitioners, policymakers and development planners.

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