Sunday, May 12, 2013

Can nature help us withstand climate impacts?

PhysOrg: Flooding, landslides, crop failure, water shortages. Across the globe, the frequency with which humans are suffering the ill effects of climatic variability and extreme weather events is on the increase. Can natural environments be used effectively to help people adapt to the effects of climate change? The first systematic review of this question – facilitated by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) Collaborative Fund for Conservation – finds much evidence of their effectiveness.

...One adaptation option is to invest in costly, large-scale structures such as sea walls, irrigation systems and dams. But while their short-term impact is clear, these solutions lead to ever-increasing maintenance costs and often have negative impacts on local ecosystems and biodiversity. "International policy makers are having to think about the different approaches they could take, but the problem is that they don't have enough information to make informed decisions," said Munroe.

"Hard-engineered sea walls have a limited life span, and we know that they change wave and tidal currents, often to the detriment of saltmarshes or mangroves that act as a natural buffer to storm surges and coastal erosion. Do we really want to lose these buffers and face increasing costs of sea wall maintenance?" asked Dr Iris Möller, Deputy Director of the Cambridge Coastal Research Unit in the Department of Geography.

"There's anecdotal evidence from events like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that villages surrounded by mangroves were significantly less affected by the tsunami than more exposed areas," she added. The mangroves may have saved thousands of lives and properties by absorbing a large proportion of the energy in the waves.

But local anecdotal evidence is not enough to provide a reliable measurement of the effectiveness of an approach. Now a review has been completed of the effectiveness of natural approaches to buffering the effects of climate change. Termed Ecosystem-based approaches for Adaptation (EbA), this relatively new concept incorporates approaches that have been used for a long time to address climatic variability, but not necessarily in the context of adaptation to climate change....

The Ganges Delta viewed from a NASA satellite


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