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New study reveals how natural habitats can limit coastal damage

Jonathan Marker | Science Recorder | July 15, 2013

New study reveals how natural habitats can limit coastal damage

The map, published in Nature Climate Change on July 14, clearly shows that the East and Gulf Coasts are more vulnerable than the West Coast to natural disasters.

Prospective real estate buyers may well take heed of a new national map, created by environmental scientists at Stanford University, which describes the best places in the United States that provide natural protection from the ravages of Mother Nature, such as coral reefs and wetlands.  Though effective, manmade coastal structures such as seawalls and levies act as substitutes for natural structures – but they are also an expensive and environmentally undesirable manipulation of the natural environment.

According to Katie Arkema and her colleagues at Stanford University, conserving and restoring the natural coastal environment provides additional protection from tropical storms, hurricanes, and the potentially devastating storm surges that often accompany these meteorological phenomena.  The map, which emerged as an attempt by Arkema and her colleagues to create a “Hazard Index” for national coastlines, also identifies coastal areas that require additional attention to maximize their protective potential.

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