This paper was originally published in PNAS.
Significance: Mounting evidence suggests that mangrove forests protect coastal communities during tropical storm events. Yet, no large-scale analysis exists documenting these storm protection benefits globally. We provide global evidence that mangroves shelter economic activity during tropical cyclone exposure and that this sheltering prevents otherwise permanent losses to economic activity. These findings reveal that even modest mangrove forest coverage has the capacity to provide tremendous storm protection services, which highlights the need for mangrove conservation in many vulnerable coastal communities that have prior received less attention.
Abstract: Mangroves shelter coastlines during hazardous storm events with coastal communities experiencing mangrove deforestation are increasingly vulnerable to economic damages resulting from cyclones. To date, the benefits of mangroves in terms of protecting coastal areas have been estimated only through individual case studies of specific regions or countries. Using spatially referenced data and statistical methods, we track from 2000 to 2012 the impact of cyclones on economic activity in coastal regions inhabited by nearly 2,000 tropical and subtropical communities across 23 major mangrove-holding countries.
We use nighttime luminosity to represent temporal trends in coastal economic activity and find that direct cyclone exposure typically results in permanent loss of 5.4–6.7 mo for a community with an average mangrove extent (6.3 m per meter of coastline); whereas, a community with more extensive mangroves (25.6 m per meter of coastline) experiences a loss equivalent to 2.6–5.5 mo. These results suggest that mangrove restoration efforts for protective benefits may be more cost effective, and mangrove deforestation more damaging, than previously thought…”
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