Edited by Paulo A.L.D. Nunes, Pushpam Kumar and Tom Dedeurwaerdere
Chapter 2: The protective value of estuarine and coastal ecosystems
Estuarine and coastal ecosystems (ECEs) are some of the most heavily used and threatened natural systems globally (Lotze et al., 2006; Worm et al., 2006; Halpern et al., 2008). Their deterioration due to human activities is intense and increasing; 50 per cent of salt marshes, 35 per cent of mangroves, 30 per cent of coral reefs and 29 per cent of seagrasses are either lost or degraded worldwide (MA, 2005; Orth et al., 2006; UNEP, 2006; FAO, 2007; Waycott et al. 2009; Spalding et al., 2010; Barbier, 2011). Since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, attention has focused on how the continuing worldwide loss of ECEs is making coastlines and coastal communities vulnerable to flooding and storm events (Braatz et al., 2007; Day et al., 2007; Cochard et al., 2008). There is mounting evidence that a variety of ECEs, including marshes, mangroves, near-shore coral reefs, seagrass beds, and sand beaches and dunes, provide some type of protection against storms and coastal floods, mainly through their ability to attenuate waves or buffer winds (Barbier et al., 2008, 2011; Koch et al., 2009; Barbier, 2011; Gedan et al., 2011; Paul and Amos, 2011; Shephard et al., 2012). However, to date, there are few economic studies that estimate the protective value of many systems, although some estimates are beginning to emerge for marsh and mangroves (see Barbier et al., 2011 and Table 2.1).
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