CA - Putting a price on the protective power of wetlands

In coastal communities prone to hurricanes and tropical storms, people typically turn to engineered solutions for protection: levees, sea walls and the like. But a natural buffer in the form of wetlands may be the more cost-effective solution, according to new research from the University of California San Diego.

In the most comprehensive study of its sort to date, UC San Diego economists show that U.S. counties with more wetlands experienced substantially less property damage from hurricanes and tropical storms over a recent 20-year period than those with fewer wetlands.

A major focus of the study is estimating the monetary value of wetlands' property-protecting services. On average, the marginal value of one square kilometer of wetlands is estimated at $1.8 million per year. The study also finds there is considerable spatial variation in the value of wetlands' protective services, with their value in heavily populated areas that are at frequent risk of being hit by major storms often being considerably higher.

The paper, titled "Coastal wetlands reduce property damage during tropical cyclones," is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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