Undervaluing the protections natural ecosystems provide against flooding has detrimental impacts for society, particularly given the increase in flood hazard in the context of climate and land-use changes. Against this backdrop, the authors developed a framework to quantify these natural protections, even in settings with limited available data. By applying this framework to the Chindwin River basin, they find that forest cover has a significant impact on flood risk.
Further, they find that nature-based solutions are most effective against small storms, but these are the largest contributors to overall flood impact because they are so frequent. The current focus on large flood events means that these important benefits are often obscured. Identifying and quantifying the benefits of natural ecosystems using the same metrics as those used to evaluate “gray” infrastructure can help mainstream nature-based solutions within planning practice, leading to more resilient and sustainable societies.