Reference is increasingly being made to the protective role given by certain ecosystems such as coastal forests or floodplains in response to storm surges or flooding. Yet, much of this evidence remains anecdotal. There remain significant gaps in our knowledge on the role of ecosystems as protective barriers against climate induced hazards and the effectiveness of simple ecosystem-based practices in reducing direct and indirect hazard risks.
The Ecosystems Protecting Infrastructure and Communities (EPIC) Project was launched in 2012, in response to the recognised gaps in information and capacity to consistently apply ecosystem-based approaches to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
Building on experience by IUCN and ProAct Network – together with its partners in EPIC – evidence-based science is now being gathered and assessed from a range of situations. This project deliberately seeks to address some of these knowledge gaps and to then use this information to inform others, particularly planners, decision- and policy-makers.
Knowledge will be garnered from a range of sources, primarily communities exposed to, or at-risk from, climate-related hazards to better understand their past vulnerabilities and exposure as well as to help them prepare for future shocks. Modelling will also be applied in a number of instances to see what might be some of the best possible options to incidents such as avalanches and landslides, with a view to determining how at least some of these might be prevented or their impact reduced.
Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction measures offer enormous potential, with multiple benefits possible for many parts of society – social, economic and environmental. Not only do such measures have the potential to provide cost-effective and environmentally friendly infrastructure for risk mitigation, they also sustain the services which provide benefits for human security – such as livelihoods and carbon sequestration.
Undertaking five inter-related sets of field projects – and linking this with other materials from the literature – empirical and applied science will be collated for different ecological, geographical and social scenarios. Based on this, capacity building will be carried out to enhance ecosystem based risk reduction thinking and practice in the selected countries.
An evolving range of channels – web-based forums, conferences, training events and publications – will be shared so as to inform practitioners and influence policy at different levels. Capacity building workshops will also be conducted to enhance the practices of ecosystem-based risk management, primarily in the projects included in this initiative.