February 12, 2018
Worldwide, humans are facing high risks from natural hazards, especially in coastal regions with high population densities. Rising sea levels due to global warming are making coastal communities’ infrastructure vulnerable to natural disasters. The present study aims to provide a coupling approach of vulnerability and resilience through restoration and conservation of lost or degraded coastal natural habitats to reclamation under different climate change scenarios. The Integrated Valuation of Ecosystems and Tradeoffs (InVEST) model is used to assess the current and future vulnerability of coastal communities. The model employed is based on seven different bio-geophysical variables to calculate a Natural Hazard Index (NHI) and to highlight the criticality of the restoration of natural habitats. The results show that roughly 25 percent of the coastline and more than 5 million residents are in highly vulnerable coastal areas in China, and these numbers are expected to double by 2100. Our study suggests that restoration and conservation in recently reclaimed areas have the potential to reduce this vulnerability by 45 percent. Hence, natural habitats have proved to be a great defense against coastal hazards and should be prioritized in coastal planning and development. The findings confirm that natural habitats are critical for coastal resilience and can act as a recovery force of coastal functionality loss. Therefore, we recommend that the Chinese government prioritize restoration where possible and conservation of the remaining habitats for the sake of coastal resilience to prevent natural hazards from escalating into disasters.