About nature-based disaster risk reduction

What is a disaster?

According to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR), a “disaster is a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources.

Disasters are often described as a result of the combination of: the exposure to a hazard; the conditions of vulnerability that are present; and insufficient capacity or measures to reduce or cope with the potential negative consequences.”

There is therefore no such thing as a 'natural' disaster, only natural hazards that due to a combination of social, political, economic and environmental contexts may cause severe damages to a community and result in a disaster. It is important to address the factors that lead to vulnerability within these contexts in order to enhance socio-economic and environmental resilience to disasters.

“Disaster risk reduction is the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and reduce the causal factors of disasters. Reducing exposure to hazards, lessening vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improving preparedness for adverse events are all examples of disaster risk reduction.” (UN/ISDR)

What are ecosystem services?

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment defined ecosystem services simply as “the benefits people derive from Ecosystems”. Besides resources like food, wood and other raw materials, plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms provide many regulatory services such as pollination of crops, prevention of soil erosion or water purification. The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment's diagram below provides further detail on the links between ecosystem services and human well-being.

Ecosystem Services


Why do ecosystems matter in disaster risk reduction?

The 2009 UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN ISDR) Global Assessment Report identified ecosystem degradation as one of the main drivers of disaster risk worldwide. Environmental degradation reduces the capacity of ecosystems to meet people’s need for food and other products, and to protect them from hazards through services such as flood regulation, slope stabilization, and protection from storm surges. Additionally, ecosystem degradation reduces the ability of natural systems to sequester carbon which increases the  incidence and impact of climate change and climate change related disasters.

Healthy and diverse ecosystems are more robust in the face of extreme weather events, and are better able to continue providing benefits to communities in post-disaster situations. Therefore, investing in natural barriers and mainstreaming disaster risk and ecosystem management in development planning is likely to make a major contribution to the goal of achieving sustainable livelihoods for the poor.

...More on ecosystems for disaster risk reduction 

What is ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction?

Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction refers to decision-making activities that take into consideration current and future human livelihood needs and bio-physical requirements of ecosystems, and recognize the role of ecosystems in supporting communities to prepare for, cope with and recover from disaster situations.

Sustainable ecosystem management for disaster risk reduction is based on equitable stakeholder involvement in land management decisions, land-use-trade-offs and long-term goal setting.


Boy planting mangroves in Pakistan
  • Mangrove restoration in Sri Lanka
  • Disaster caused by the Cahoacán River swelling after the passage of tropical storm Stand in October 2005.
  • Landscape in the Sico River valley in Rio Platano. The river forms the boundary of the Buffer Zone, the forested mountains in the background are located in the Core Zone.
  • Water, a scare resource
  • Dragonfly in India
  • Mountains in Banff National Park, Canada
  • Sand dunes Mauritania
  • Community consultation - review of mangrove restoration progress in Tamil Nadu, MFF India project.
  • Damrey storm damage - Thai Binh Province, Viet Nam
  • Archipiélago San Andrés, Providencia y Santa Catalina, Colombia