Environment and Disasters

Ecosystems for resilience in the face of disasters and climate change

Climate change and hazard events such as landslides and floods have caused a marked increase in disasters worldwide, putting millions of people at risk, especially women and children. Human vulnerability to natural hazards is exacerbated by ongoing environmental degradation, high population densities in exposed areas, increased frequency of extreme weather events and lacking or ineffective government policies.

Ecosystems contribute to reducing the risks of disasters in multiple and varied ways. Healthy ecosystems such as wetlands, forests and coastal areas, including mangroves and sand dunes reduce vulnerability to hazards by supporting livelihoods, while acting as physical protection to reduce the impact of hazard events.

Environmental degradation reduces the capacity of these ecosystems to meet communities' needs for food and other products and to protect them from hazards by providing services such as flood regulation, slope stabilization and protection from storm surges. It also greatly reduces a landscape's ability to sequester carbon - a crucial element in climate change mitigation.

The most vulnerable are often those who are most dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods. Ecosystem restoration and sustainable management of natural resources can therefore play a critical role in people's ability to prevent, cope with and recover from disasters. Ecosystems provide livelihood benefits such as food, firewood, clean water, fibers and medicines that contribute to the overall resilience of communities to disasters and climate change.

Learn more about the environment's role in disaster risk reduction...

Learn about IUCN's nature-based solutions for disaster risk reduction...



Merab Matchavariani, National Forestry Consultant for FLEG II program in Georgia, at right, discusses forest management in the Tusheti Protected Landscape with a ranger from the Sachagmo gorge in Tusheti (at left) and the director of Tusheti Protected Landscape Administration (center).

Home at Last: Tusheti Protected Landscape Officially Under Local Control

For the first time since before the Soviet era, local officials can manage and protect the forest based on local needs …  

14 Oct 2014 | Article

Damrey storm damage - Thai Binh Province, Viet Nam

The world after 2015 – ecosystem management integral to climate-resilient development

Human and financial losses caused by climate-related disasters have risen significantly over the past few years. The year 2011 saw the highest economic losses due to disasters in history, at USD 370 billion. These losses are expected to increase as climate change impacts intensify and development patterns expose more industrial and private property. …  

27 Jun 2014 | Article

Mark Spalding, TNC Senior Mairne Scientist.

A big YES to mangroves, but where and how?

Mangroves reduce wave height by as much as 66% over 100 metres of forest. A new report by The Nature Conservancy and Wetlands International says that mangrove management needs to be included in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction efforts in coastal areas worldwide. …  

13 Sep 2012 | Article
0 Comments | Write a comment

Mangrove - focus december 2011

A natural safety net

As climate change increases the incidence of natural disasters like flooding and landslides, governments are looking for ways to protect their people and they’re finding that nature can help. …   | French | Spanish

06 Sep 2012 | Article

International Year of Water Cooperation logo

New video release on water cooperation

A full session at Stockholm World Water Week yesterday saw the official unveiling of plans and communication tools to help promote 2013 as the UN’s International Year of Water Cooperation. …  

28 Aug 2012 | News story

Brainstorming session with students

Disaster Risk Reduction through school education: IUCN and GIZ work together to assist disaster prone communities in Southern Bangladesh

Bangladesh has a long history of natural disasters. Between 1980 and 2008, it experienced 219 natural disasters, causing more than USD $16 billion in damage and an estimated 200,000 deaths (UNDP, 2012). Bangladesh remains a country most vulnerable to natural disasters. UNDP reports that 30% of Bangladesh’s land and 26% of its population is exposed to three or more kinds of hazards.  Schools play an important role in disaster risk reduction. Schools educate the community and often provide shelter during a disaster. In July, staff members of IUCN Bangladesh travelled to remote, disaster prone communities in southern Bangladesh to discuss disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation with school students, teachers, local education officers and district officials.  To experience first-hand how resilient the people of Bangladesh are despite the onslaught of natural disasters was a humbling and rewarding experience for all involved. …  

01 Aug 2012 | News story

COP11, Bucarest 2012.

Power of partnerships needed for world's wetlands

At the opening of the 11th Conference of the Contracting Parties (CoP) of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre called on governments to support strong partnerships as key to moving from aspiration to implementation for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. …  

06 Jul 2012 | News story

Woman with baby at local water well, Zambia.

Protected Areas presented as natural solutions to global environmental challenges at RIO +20

Climate change, food security, water stress, land degradation and biodiversity loss will become some of the greatest environmental challenges in the next decades, exacerbated by rising temperatures, more erratic rainfall and rising pressure on land and natural resources. Protected areas cover only 12.7% of terrestrial areas and 6.3% of coastal and marine ecosystems, but provide multiple services that can help people to cope with these changes. A joint event at the RIO +20 Summit on Sustainable Development focused on these key roles protected areas can play in promoting sustainable land and resource management, as well as contribute to the green economy. …  

28 Jun 2012 | News story
0 Comments | Write a comment

Fishing on Ang Soui Lake, Xe Champhone Wetland

Rio+20 Launch: TEEB for Water and Wetlands

A new TEEB -The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity- initiative for Water and Wetlands will be launched at the UN's Summit on Sustainable Development on 15 June in Rio, Brazil. …  

13 Jun 2012 | News story

The Mekong basin is one of the richest regions of biodiversity in the world

Sharing benefits across borders: Messages from Mekong2Rio

Innovative and collaborative actions that foster positive results are instrumental in encouraging further cooperation between sovereign countries, was the message from IUCN to the participants of Mekong2Rio, an international conference organized by the Mekong River Commission in Phuket, Thailand from 1-3 May 2012. …  

04 Jun 2012 | News story

  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN);Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC); Global Fire Monitoring Center;ProAct Network;Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI);United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); United Nations Environment Programme  (UNEP);UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR);United Nations University – Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU); World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF);The Nature Conservancy (TNC);The Global Risk Forum (GRF);Council of Europe (CoE)
Ecosystems and DRR in Great japan in the context of Earthquake and Tsunami
  • Japan earthquake and Tsunami
  • Environmental guidance note for disaster risk reduction

    Environmental guidance note for disaster risk reduction

    Photo: IUCN

  • Making Disaster Risk Reduction Gender Sensitive
  • Ecosystems, Livelihoods and Disasters