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Natural Coastal Protection

September 27, 2013

Natural coastal ecosystems like sand dunes and mangrove forests help protect coasts from natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy.



Absorbing nature’s fury. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast in 2012. (National Guard/Flickr)

(Hurricane Sandy news coverage)

While Hurricane Sandy battered some parts of the Atlantic coast, along other parts of the coast, natural buffers like dunes and oyster beds absorbed the storm’s energy and reduced its effects. Ecologist Katie Arkema, of the Stanford Natural Capital Project, says that even though these coastal ecosystems are a fraction of the size they once were, they still protect millions of people, and hundreds of billions of dollars in property value.

KATIE ARKEMA (Stanford Natural Capital Project):

The intact coastal ecosystems along the coast are helping to protect about 50% of the population across the whole U.S. So if those ecosystems were lost, about twice the number of people would be at risk.


They found that maintaining and expanding these buffers is an important tool for fighting the effects of climate change. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.