Coastal ecosystems: A critical element of risk reduction

Mark D. Spalding*, Anna L. Mcivor, Michael W. Beck, Evamaria W. Koch, Iris Möller, Denise J. Reed, Pamela Rubinoff, Thomas Spencer, Trevor J. Tolhurst, Ty V. Wamsley, Bregje K. van Wesenbeeck, Eric Wolanski, Colin D. Woodroffe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

105 Citations (Scopus)


The conservation of coastal ecosystems can provide considerable coastal protection benefits, but this role has not been sufficiently accounted for in coastal planning and engineering. Substantial evidence now exists showing how, and under what conditions, ecosystems can play a valuable function in wave and storm surge attenuation, erosion reduction, and in the longer term maintenance of the coastal profile. Both through their capacity for self repair and recovery, and through the often considerable cobenefits they provide, ecosystems can offer notable advantages over traditional engineering approaches in some settings. They can also be combined in "hybrid" engineering designs. We make 10 recommendations to encourage the utilization of existing knowledge and to improve the incorporation of ecosystems into policy, planning and funding for coastal hazard risk reduction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-301
Number of pages9
JournalConservation Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Coastal hazards
  • Hybrid engineering
  • Mangrove
  • Reef
  • Risk reduction
  • Salt marsh
  • Sea-level rise
  • Seagrass
  • Storm surge
  • Wave attenuation


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