Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists: environmental protection, development not always at odds

21.01.2008
Mangroves in coastal Thailand are the main protection against deadly flooding from tsunamis, so it might seem wise to protect them at all costs.

However, ripping out a few mangroves and replacing them with shrimp farms, an important local industry, doesn’t necessarily have to reduce the plants’ power to blunt tsunamis. And in that observation lies a fresh, quantitative approach to how policy makers can protect the environment and allow growth and development that improve local residents’ lives.

So says a University of Florida zoologist and co-author of a paper on the topic set to appear this week in the journal Science.

Brian Silliman, a UF assistant professor of zoology, said governments and managers worldwide are leaning toward a system known as “ecosystem-based management” to achieve environmental protection goals. Contrasting traditional techniques that focus on single species, ecosystem-based management seeks to conserve not only species but also habitats and the services they provide to humans by conserving entire ecosystems.

Under ecosystem-based management, policy makers in Thailand would not only take into account its mangroves, but also the needs of shrimp farmers, threats from ocean pollution, potential damage from storms, and other factors, Silliman said.

Shrimp farming in Thailand has led to destruction of thousands of acres of mangroves and is a major environmental issue in Asia. In many areas, mangroves no longer exist, leaving shoreline towns and cities unprotected from tsunamis. To increase mangroves’ protective services, governments must restore or conserve them.

For Silliman and his colleagues, the question was, can some mangroves be converted to shrimp farms without losing too much storm buffering"

Silliman said that managers might make a common assumption: The amount of benefits from a natural amenity – whether sea grass, forests or mangroves – are linked directly to its size. So, more mangroves would mean proportionally more storm surge protection, more habitat for juvenile fish and more pollution-filtering capacity.

That assumption inevitably leads to either-or conclusions about environmental protection and development, Silliman said. If more mangroves always means more environmental benefits, then none should be destroyed.

The main point of the Science paper is that assumption and its inevitable conclusion are not always right and should be questioned.

Ecologists have long understood that species reach thresholds at which their environmental benefits to humans are greatest, and saturation points at which those benefits trail off, Silliman said. In other words, the relationship between the amount of services provided by an ecosystem and the area of that ecosystem is not a straight line.

When the authors reviewed studies of the mangroves and how they buffer tsunamis, it quickly became clear that the mangroves don’t offer much protection until they cover a certain critical area, Silliman said. And their protection doesn’t get much better after this area reaches a certain, “saturation” size compared to the size of the vulnerable coast they shelter.

Merging this ecological knowledge and economic valuation theory to create a technique useful in many other scenarios, the researchers assigned dollar values to the mangroves’ protective powers, and then compared those values to the dollars earned from shrimp farming. Their conclusion: Small losses of between 10 and 20 percent of mangroves, where massive expanses of mangroves already exist, are outweighed by gains by shrimp farmers.

In other words, as long as farmers don’t destroy too many of the plants, they can uproot some mangroves, build shrimp ponds and make money – and the remaining mangroves will still protect the shoreline from tsunami storm surges.

“It makes intuitive sense when you say, ‘both sides can benefit,’ but the important quantitative question is, ‘How much land can mangroves give up and not lose that most important service of protection against tsunamis,’” Silliman said. “We provide a technique to answer that question based on combining some basic principles of ecology and economics.”

That said, Silliman noted that the argument assumes there are plenty of mangroves. If most have already been destroyed as is the case in most areas, then restoration, not shrimp farming, is essential, he said. The research was funded by the National Center of Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, and the Packard Foundation, which encourages interdisciplinary research. The authors relied on published studies as part the center’s goal of tying together seemingly unrelated research to find new approaches to solving problems.

Brian Silliman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ufl.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling of PET Bottles: New Ideas for Resource Cycles in Germany
25.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit und Systemzuverlässigkeit LBF

nachricht Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>