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Planting Trees: Mangroves and Flood Mitigation

As Rotarians around the world respond to wild fires, droughts and floods, it may be helpful to remember that 500-year floods don't happen every 500-years.  Weather-related events are bound to change as the climate changes.  The question is, what can we do proactively to minimize destruction?  Jurriaan Kamp, journalist for The Optimist writes:

According to a recent study conducted in the Philippines mangroves annually avert more than $1 billion in damages to residential and industrial buildings. Without mangroves, the cost of damages to property in the Philippines would increase by 28 percent.

The damage to Houston would have been much less if there would have been more coast protection from mangrove forests. The Philippines’s study estimates that the mangroves lost between 1950 and 2010 have resulted in increases in flooding to more than 267,000 people every year. Restoring these mangroves would bring more than $450 USD million per year in flood protection benefits.

The problem is that mangroves are being lost around the world. The water around the mangroves provides a favorite breeding ground for shrimp. However, the mangroves are inconvenient obstacles for fishermen and they have been increasingly removed to create shrimp farms. These farms provide short-term gains for local economies. Without the water filtering roots of the mangroves, the shrimp farms need a lot of chemicals to keep the water “clean”. That is a losing battle, however. Most ponds are abandoned after a few years because pollution devastates the business. In the meantime, the mangroves—and their protection—are lost forever.