1 January 2010
Natural habitats in the coastal zone can attenuate the impact of storm surge flooding by reducing water levels, wave energy, and erosion. While the magnitude of flood reduction largely varies with location, storm intensity, and coastal landscape, the economic value of the flood protection service is contingent upon the number and value of nearby properties, as well as the surrounding population. With rising sea level and frequent coastal inundation, the ecosystem services provided by coastal habitats such as wetlands and marshes are likely to become more valuable and yet, at the same time, more threatened. In this research, an integrated economic-engineering framework is applied for two different locations of the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. A coupled version of the coastal hydrodynamic and wave models, ADCIRC+SWAN, is applied separately for the Chesapeake Bay region in Maryland and a cross-section of three coastal counties in New Jersey adjacent to the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Reserve to simulate coastal flooding due to historical and synthetic storms. Each storm is simulated for a baseline condition with existing land cover and for a hypothetical land use scenario where the coastal habitats are replaced with bare land or open water. Additionally, the simulated flood depths are combined with flood depth-damage functions and parcel-level property values to estimate monetary flood damage. The difference in flood depths and damage between the two simulations shows the reduction in flooding and damages avoided by natural habitats in the coastal zone. Results indicate that all coastal wetlands and marshes in Maryland reduce property damage by a range of $55 to $454 million, depending on the storm. On a per-square kilometer basis, the value varies from $65,000 to as high as $383,000. For a relatively local scale, results suggest that coastal habitats in the New Jersey study area can prevent $8.5 to $13 million in residential property damage. Results from both cases indicate that natural habitats can enhance resilience in coastal areas that are vulnerable to storm surge flooding. In addition, the analysis can assist natural resource managers and coastal landscape designers in developing sustainable strategies to protect coastal communities, properties, and ecosystems.
Group 1: Local Tourism Board [in Maryland]
Group 2: Retirement Center [in coastal Maryland]
Group 3: NPR Reporter
Group 4: Member of Congress (House of Reps)