Disaster Risk Reduction

Protected areas help keep natural ecosystems intact and in good health, as a consequence natural ecosystems can offer cheap, reliable and effective ways of mitigating the impacts of a range of natural events such as flooding, drought, fire and storms.

A disaster occurs when a natural phenomenon, like an extreme weather event, sudden earth movement or a volcanic eruption, impacts on human lives and livelihoods. Globally, disasters due to natural hazards extract an enormous toll in terms of human lives, destruction to crops and livelihoods, and economic losses. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) has therefore become a critical part of sustainable development strategies. The acronym DRR embraces a complex mixture of policies and actions, from education of civil society, through disaster preparedness strategies to engineering solutions ranging from construction of sea walls to building regulations that aim to protect cities against earthquakes.

Over the past few decades, the role of healthy ecosystems as a cheap, reliable DRR strategy against natural hazards has been increasingly recognized. Forests and other vegetation help to stabilize slopes, prevent floods and slow or stop soil erosion and desertification. A range of coastal habitats, from corals to mangroves, protect people living near the sea from the worst of storms and tidal waves. Sustainable management policies in the drylands can halt and even reverse the spread of deserts.

But DRR strategies based on ecosystem services are failing in many places because natural ecosystems are being degraded and destroyed. In these circumstances, places that maintain functioning natural ecosystems become increasingly important. In many places protected areas are now the only natural ecosystems remaining and thus planners, policy makers and communities are increasingly integrating protected areas into DRR strategies.


WCPA works closely with the Commission for Ecosystem Management on the issue of protected areas as tools for disaster risk reduction. Link to the CEM specialist group on ecosystem-based disaster reduction are below:

Link: https://www.iucn.org/commissions/commission-ecosystem-management/our-work/cems-thematic-groups/ecosystem-based-disaster