Marine Planning
Practical Approaches to Ocean and Coastal Decision-Making
www.marineplanning.org

USA – Gulf of Mexico
Coastal Hazards

Wetlands are valuable for both conservation of biodiversity and mitigation of coastal hazards. Planning and management for these objectives typically occurs through separate approaches and agencies.

Goal

To examine approaches for jointly meeting objectives in biodiversity conservation and coastal hazard mitigation.

Geography

The Panhandle Coast of Florida, United States. This coast has abundant and diverse wetlands, and the hazards from tropical storms and hurricanes significantly impact human communities and biodiversity.

Most of the world's population lives on or near coastlines in close proximity to coastal hazards and shorelines have become highly degraded and defended at ever increasing costs.

Storms, tsunamis and other natural hazards can ravage coastal communities. The costs of this damage are increasing because of the huge and growing investments in the coastal zone. Human communities and coastal ecosystems are at even greater risk as hurricanes become more frequent and intense as an effect of global warming. Historically, the coastal population's vulnerability to hazards has typically been managed through structural or engineered approaches.

Coastal wetlands such as salt marshes, mangroves, coral reefs, oyster reefs and seagrasses can help to mitigate these hazards by reducing the intensity of waves and creating natural barriers. Yet these wetlands are the most impacted of marine ecosystems, and they are rapidly disappearing.

Approach

There are many tools and approaches for setting priorities for coastal hazard mitigation, just as there are for biodiversity conservation. The aim here is not to review these many approaches but to begin to address how these objectives, tools and approaches can be put together. The coastal hazards planning tool used in this example is the Community Vulnerability Assessment Tool (CVAT) which is combined with the regional assessment approach for biodiversity conservation and the Marxan tool.

 

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