The Role of Ecosystems in Disaster Risk Reduction


Sample Chapter
  • Edited by Fabrice G. Renaud, Karen Sudmeier-Rieux and Marisol Estrella

    1221 – Renaud – Role of Ecosystem _FINAL front cover_web
    ISBN-13: 978-92-808-1221-3
    United Nations University Press
    June 2013

    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 in DRR.

    The aim of this book is to provide an overview of knowledge and practice in the multidisciplinary
    field of ecosystem management and DRR to encourage and further develop
    dialogues between scientists, practitioners, policymakers and development planners.

    About the Editors:

    Fabrice G. Renaud is Head of Section at the United Nations University Institute for
    Environment and Human Security, Germany. Karen Sudmeier-Rieux is a Researcher at the
    Center for Research of the Terrestrial Environment, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.
    Marisol Estrella is the Programme Coordinator of the Disaster Risk Reduction Unit,
    Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch, United Nations Environment Programme,

    Table of Contents:

    Part I: Why do ecosystems matter in disaster risk reduction?
    The relevance of ecosystems for disaster risk reduction, Fabrice G. Renaud, Karen Sudmeier-Rieux and Marisol Estrella
    Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR): An overview, Marisol Estrella and Nina Saalismaa

    Part II: Ecosystems and coastal disaster risk reduction
    Investigating the performance of coastal ecosystems for hazard mitigation, Sam S.L. Hettiarachchi, Saman P. Samarawickrama, Harindra J.S. Fernando, A. Harsha R. Ratnasooriya, N.A. Kithsiri Nandasena and Srimal Bandara
    Bioshields: Mangrove ecosystems as resilient natural coastal defences, Carmen Lacambra, Daniel A. Friess, Tom Spencer and Iris Möller
    Integrating the role of ecosystems in disaster risk and vulnerability assessments: Lessons from the Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Methodology Development Project (RiVAMP) in Negril, Jamaica,
    Pascal Peduzzi, Adonis Velegrakis, Marisol Estrella and Bruno Chatenoux
    Increasing the resilience of human and natural communities to coastal hazards: Supporting decisions in New York and Connecticut, Michael W. Beck, Ben Gilmer, Zach Ferdaña, George T.
    Raber, Christine C. Shepard, Imen Meliane, Jeffrey D. Stone, Adam W. Whelchel, Mark Hoover and Sarah Newkirk
    A coastal adaptation strategy for the City of Cape Town: An ecosystem-based management approach towards risk reduction, Darryl Colenbrander, Penny Price, Gregg Oelofse and Sakhile Tsotsobe
    Lessons from local initiatives on ecosystem-based climate change work in Tonga, Stavros Mavrogenis and Ilan Kelman

    Part III: Water resources management for disaster risk reduction
    Good flood, bad flood: Maintaining dynamic river basins for community resilience, Pieter van Eijk, Chris Baker, Romana Gaspirc and Ritesh Kumar
    Utilizing integrated water resources management approaches to support disaster risk reduction, James Dalton, Radhika Murti and Alvin Chandra
    The matter is not if, but when and where: The role of capacity development in disaster risk reduction aiming for a sustainable water supply and sanitation, Madeleine Fogde, Luis Macario and Kirsten Carey

    Part IV: Sustainable land management for disaster risk reduction
    12 The role of vegetation cover change in landslide hazard and risk, Maria Papathoma-Koehle and Thomas Glade
    Protection forests: A key factor in integrated risk management in the Alps,André Wehrli and Luuk Dorren
    Forest cover and landslide trends: A case study from Dolakha District in central-eastern Nepal, 1992–2009, Stéphanie Jaquet, Karen Sudmeier-Rieux, Marc-Henri Derron and Michel Jaboyedoff

    Part V: Policy, planning and future perspectives
    Reducing vulnerability: The role of protected areas in mitigating natural disasters, Nigel Dudley, Kathy MacKinnon and Sue Stolton
    Urban disaster risk reduction and ecosystem services, Lorenzo Guadagno, Yaella Depietri and Urbano Fra Paleo
    Applying environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental assessments in disaster management, Anil Kumar Gupta and Sreeja S. Nair
    Opportunities, challenges and future perspectives for ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction, Marisol Estrella, Fabrice G. Renaud and Karen Sudmeier-Rieux

  • 1221 - Role of Ecosystems - SAMPLE CHAPTER

    Sample Chapter (1,022.3 kB PDF)

  • “The application of disaster risk reduction has saved millions of lives and helped communities globally. But the ecosystems on which communities depend upon for their protection, economic well-being and recovery have, until now, been largely ignored in disaster risk reduction. Incorporating ecosystems into disaster risk reduction can save lives, aid recovery and help build a more resilient and secure planet for all. This timely book is an essential tool for policymakers, scientists, economists, sociologists, and practitioners on why and how to integrate ecosystems into disaster risk reduction. Scientific studies have repeatedly confirmed the role of healthy ecosystems in providing resilience against disasters; and they have demonstrated how environmental degradation contributes to more severe disasters including droughts, floods, and storm surges. A key challenge is how to integrate this knowledge into policy and planning. Multi-disciplinary approaches that combine ecology and engineering, science with sociology and economics have to be implemented. This book provides a sobering evaluation of the consequences of ignoring ecosystems in disaster risk reduction. But it also offers a range of well-considered and practical solutions which could be used in many existing regulations, policies and risk reduction activities.”

    Deborah Brosnan, Environment and Policy Scientist, University of California, Davis, One Health Institute

    “In 2004, the earth shook, the waters rose, and the Indian Ocean tsunami changed the world. Almost a quarter of a million coastal dwellers died that day. Several years later, the earth shook again, this time in Haiti, and a disturbingly similar number of people lost their lives. In both cases, sustainable, healthy ecosystems could have substantially mitigated these disasters.

    Recent disasters in Japan, the US East Coast, and several in SE Asia including Thailand and the Philippines, have led to a simple yet unsolvable question: How can the world’s most vulnerable populations reduce the risk posed by natural hazards?
    The Role of Ecosystems in Disaster Risk Reduction brings together the world’s experts on how the natural environment has evolved tools to buffer against natural hazards in real, sustainable and cost effective ways. From coastal ecosystems that buffer large waves while providing valuable services to Indian Ocean communities to protective services that forests provide in the Swiss Alps, this book is a valuable contribution showing how environmentally and economically sustainable solutions can provide real benefits to exposed populations and resources.”

    Brian G. McAdoo, College Rector, Professor of Science, Yale-NUS College

    “Why do ecosystems matter in disaster risk reduction? This book meets an urgent need. Intuitively we understand that working with and not against nature will help in protecting us from impacts of extreme natural events, but evidence has been lacking regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of such measures, particularly as alternatives to or in combination with engineered solutions. This rich collection of research findings and tested practices takes us around the globe, from coasts to forests, from agricultural landscapes to protected areas, from cities to mountains. It addresses conflicts between socio-economic development and environmental concerns, taken to its extreme in Cape Town where policymakers and planners have had to overcome the legacy of apartheid to find a sustainable trajectory. And it gives readers an array of methods and instruments to help overcome the sector and disciplinary stovepipes that often stand in the way of the holistic approaches needed to meet and reconcile multiple objectives: protecting vulnerable people and assets, halting the erosion of biodiversity and making sustainable use of our natural resource base. Those looking for the state of the art in ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction now know where to go.”

    Johan Schaar, Co-Director, Vulnerability and Adaptation Initiative, World Resources Institute

    “With the human and economic losses of disaster events projected to grow, and with two-thirds of global disaster losses being caused by hydro-meteorological events, this is a very timely compilation of the evidence needed to link up ecosystem management with disaster risk management as mutually reinforcing initiatives. It comes at a time when the post-2015 development paradigm and framework for disaster risk management are on the drawing boards. It will surely go a long way in informing the convergence of policies and benchmarks for ecosystem management as an integral aspect of climate and disaster risk management, to ensure near-term development gains and long-term climate and disaster resilience.

    An extremely timely and comprehensive publication, a game-changer in the approach to natural resource management for sustainable development – and for climate and disaster resilience.”

    Prashant Singh, Team Leader, Partnerships and Governance, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) at The World Bank

    “How do ecosystems relate to disasters? How do ecosystems contribute to disaster risk reduction (DRR)? This book gives us answers to these questions.

    It is timely to address DRR-related coastal issues and water resources management, which are inevitable to countries being prone to water-related disasters such as storm surges and tsunamis as well as floods, droughts and erosion. Forestry and vegetation cover are also dealt with in relation to land management and landslides. These are serious problems which many parts of the world are facing in the twenty-first century under the pressure of sustainable development and survivable societies. Future perspectives are also given in concluding chapters.

    This book will be of interest to disaster managers and policymakers, eco-hydrologists, coastal and water resources planners, engineers and managers, research scientists and students, international donor agencies, and many professionals from NGOs and the media.”

    Kaoru Takara, Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan