Intact ecosystems are the best defense humanity has against climate change. A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change shows that native forests and coral reefs provide better protection than current adaptation techniques that leave the planet worse off in the future.

In a recent study named Intact Ecosystems Provide The Best Defense Against Climate Change conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the University of Queensland states that artificial methods such as conservation reserves and forest clearing for drought relief and building sea walls do more harm than good.

In spite of the belief that these are solutions to problems, these human responses to climate change will bring about negative consequences in the long run according to CSIRO’s principal research scientist Tara Martin. People may think that the methods help alleviate the effects of climate change but these affect nature as functioning and intact forests, grasslands, wetlands and coral reefs are cleared up to make way for the construction of these methods.



According to the study, in Australia and Canada, conservation reserves are used to feed livestock during drought, the forests in the Congo Basin in Africa are being cleared for agriculture purposes that is also a response to drought and the coral reefs in the low-lying islands in Melanesia are being destroyed so people could build sea walls in that area.

The researchers say that native forests reduce the frequency and severity of floods while coral reefs lower the wave energy up to 97 percent on the average which proves that the reefs are more cost-effective than engineered structures when it comes to protecting coastal areas from the effects of storms. Ecosystems such as mangroves and tidal marshes are also good alternatives as protection from storm surges than the man-made constructions.

Co-author James Watson, a lead scientist with WCS and Principle Research Fellow at the University of Queensland, adds that adaptation to climate change could easily be $100 billion (AU$1.4 billion) annually. Nevertheless, Watson remarks that some methods are better than the others.

“Fortunately some adaptation strategies are being developed that do not destroy nature, some of which are even ecosystem-based,” Watson says. “The protection and restoration of mangrove forests that is actively funded by agencies such as USAID is a prime example.”