Friday June 14, 2024

Knee Deep Times

What, precisely, is the value of habitat restoration? While answers tend to aim for pristine nature and thriving wildlife, one approach — recently published in the journal Nature — has assigned salt marsh restoration projects a dollar value in terms of human assets protected from climate change driven flooding. This novel approach uses the same models engineers use to evaluate the value of “gray” solutions such as levees and seawalls.

“You can really compare apples to apples when you put these green climate adaptation solutions on the same playing field as gray infrastructure,” says Rae Taylor-Burns, a postdoctoral fellow with UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Coastal Climate Resilience and lead author of the study.

Given that sea level is expected to rise by 1.6 to 7.2 feet (0.5 to 2.2 meters) by 2100, such value assessments are going to become increasingly relevant to the large population living and working near the low-lying shorelines of the San Francisco Bay Area. The region has already seen significant damage from floods when combined with high tides and storm surges. Statewide, if sea level rise reaches more than seven feet (2 meters), 675,000 people and $250 billion in property will be exposed to flood risk in the event of a 100-year storm.

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