Constructed ecosystems reduce risk of flooding

Dec 09, 2013

In many locations throughout the world, protection against increasingly severe flooding can be improved by the construction of large ecosystems (e.g. tidal marshes and mangroves). In comparison with conventional flood-prevention methods, this new concept is more resistant to climate change, in addition to being more cost-efficient and having many additional social benefits.

This is demonstrated in the article in Nature entitled 'Ecosystem-based coastal defence in the face of global change', which was published by the University of Antwerp, in cooperation with the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), IMARES Wageningen UR, TU Delft and Ecoshape.

Tidal marshes

The Flemish–Dutch research team based their plea for more global applications on research conducted in Flanders and the Netherlands. One of the methods investigated involves tidal marshes. These ecosystems occur naturally along coasts and estuaries, but they can also be built by moving dikes inland or by using locks to diminish the tidal action flowing into the polders.

Natural flood protection

During storm surges, large volumes of water volumes are contained in these new tidal marshes, thus reducing the risk of flooding in the densely populated inland areas. Tidal marshes are also efficient breakwaters, thus reducing coastal erosion and the costs associated with maintaining the underlying dikes.

The researchers also used geological and biological processes to demonstrate that tidal marshes raise themselves along with the rising sea level. These ecosystems thus act as natural dams that maintain themselves and adapt to .

Social benefits

Tidal marshes also provide additional social benefits. For example, they are essential growth sites for commercially interesting types of fish and shellfish; they contribute to the natural water purification of rivers and coastal areas; they can compensate for the concentration of harmful greenhouse gases; and they offer opportunities for recreation and to experience nature.

For tropical and sandier coasts, mangrove forests, coral reefs, dunes and oyster beds play a similar protective role.

Limitations

Despite the many benefits and advantageous applications in many critical regions throughout the world, there are also a number of limitations. The construction of large requires more space than the construction of classic dams. In addition, experts currently have much less experience with these methods, and it takes several years for an ecosystem to become well established.

Explore further: Humans threaten wetlands' ability to keep pace with sea-level rise

More information: "Ecosystem-based coastal defence in the face of global change." Stijn Temmerman, Patrick Meire, Tjeerd J. Bouma, Peter M. J. Herman, Tom Ysebaert, Huib J. De Vriend. Nature 504, 79–83 (05 December 2013) DOI: 10.1038/nature12859

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Storminess helps coastal marshes withstand sea level rise

Feb 11, 2013

Rising sea levels are predicted to threaten many coastal sea marshes around the world in the coming decades as the Earth's climate warms. In addition to accelerating sea level rise, global climate change is predicted to increase ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

19 hours ago

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...