Wetlands are now being restored in several parts of the world, as part of flood management programmes. However, restoration is not only expensive, but it rarely produces a perfectly re-established ecosystem with fully functioning natural ecological processes.
Clearly, it is much more cost-effective to simply protect wetlands in the first place.
Preventing coastal damage
Mangroves, coral reefs, sand dunes, and other coastal habitats provide significant protection against damage from hurricanes, cyclones, storm surges, and tsunamis. Mangrove forests, for example, can absorb 70-90% of the energy of wind-generated waves, while the protective function of coral reefs is estimated to be worth US$9 billion per year globally.
When these habitats are cleared or destroyed, ocean water can penetrate much further inland, endangering people, homes, farmland, and livelihoods.
The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami provides a good illustration of this. Coastal communities in South and Southeast Asia that had maintained healthy coastal habitats suffered much less
from the tsunami than those with damaged coral reefs and cleared mangroves and coastal vegetation.
With an estimated 60% of the world’s population living within 60 km of a coast, the protection provided by natural coastal habitats clearly makes them worth saving.