Helping nature help us: conserve ecosystems, reduce the risk of disasters

15 January 2013 | News story

To help protect communities from disasters and tackle the adverse effects of climate change, a new IUCN project will show how healthy ecosystems can help reduce the risks and make livelihoods more resilient.

Avalanches and landslides threaten human settlements and transport lines in mountainous regions of countries such as Nepal, Chile and China. Coastal communities in Thailand are exposed to tropical storms and soil salinization due to the degradation of mangrove forests while droughts, floods and other extremes seriously affect communities in Burkina Faso and Senegal.

Around the world environmental degradation reduces the capacity of ecosystems such as forests and wetlands to meet people’s need for food and fresh water and to protect them from hazards by providing a physical buffer, regulating floods and stabilizing slopes. Healthy and diverse ecosystems are more robust in the face of extreme weather and are better able to continue providing benefits to communities after disaster has struck.

IUCN’s Ecosystems Protecting Infrastructure and Communities (EPIC) project will be implemented in six countries in collaboration with Swiss NGO ProAct Network.

“The goal of the project is to document evidence that highlights the need for promoting and conserving ecosystem services for both climate change adaptation and in planning for disaster risk reduction,” says Radhika Murti, Programme Coordinator for IUCN's Ecosystem Management Programme.

“EPIC will also work with policy makers at national and local levels to promote policies that link the various sectors such as environment, disaster management, land-use planning and public finance, and help in coordinated planning,” she adds.

This five-year project, funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety’s International Climate Initiative, is being implemented with several partners including the University of Lausanne, the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in France, Mangrove Action Project and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research.

Empirical and applied scientific information will be compiled from case studies addressing different scenarios in Chile and Nepal (avalanches), China and Nepal (landslides), Burkina Faso and Senegal (droughts and floods) and Thailand (coastal hazards). Based on lessons learned from the case studies, workshops will be held to improve ecosystem-based risk management in the selected countries.

It is hoped that longer term ecosystem-based adaptation strategies will be built upon the results shown from managing ecosystems for disaster risk reduction.

For more information, please contact radhika.murti@iucn.org


This image shows the courtship behavior of Indian Bull frogs (Holobatrachus tigerinus). During the monsoon, the breeding males become bright yellow in color, while females remain dull. The prominent blue vocal sacs of male produce strong nasal mating call.