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.
Photo: Kelly Fike/USFWS/Wikimedia Commons (CC0)