Coastal forests and trees can, under
certain conditions, act as bioshields to protect
lives and valuable assets against coastal hazards, including: tsunamis,
cyclones, wind and salt spray and coastal erosion.
The degree of protection offered by coastal bioshields depends on a number of variables, including: (i) the characteristics of the hazard itself (e.g. type,
force, frequency); (ii) the features of the site (e.g. bathymetry, coastal
geomorphology); and (iii) the characteristics of the bioshield
(e.g. type of forest/tree, width, height and density of the forest).
Care must be taken to avoid making generalizations
about the protective role of forests and trees based on evidence from one or a
few areas; the many factors that influence the protective role of the
forests/trees must be understood and taken into consideration before lessons
can be learned and applied elsewhere.
Coastal forests and trees are not able to provide
effective protection against all hazards (e.g. extremely large tsunami waves,
flooding from cyclones and certain types of coastal erosion); provisions for
other forms of protection and (in extreme events) for evacuation must be relied
upon. Care must be taken not to create a false sense of protection against
The importance of incorporating coastal protection
as an integral part of coastal area planning and management is recognized.
The options for protection include: soft and hard
solutions and a hybrid of the two. If none of these is appropriate and viable,
it may be necessary to zone coastal land use to prevent (further) settlement
and construction of valuable assets in the vulnerable zone.
It is important to match the species with the site
in order to avoid high mortality and low performance of the planted trees. Some
forest types and tree species cannot survive or thrive in areas exposed to
specific coastal hazards; therefore, they are not candidates for protective
Development of bioshields
is not possible in all situations owing to, inter alia,
biological limitations, space constraints, incompatibility with priority land
uses and prohibitive costs.
The level of knowledge and understanding of the
functions of forests and trees in coastal protection is still insufficient and
there is a lack of multidisciplinary research and cooperation in this field.
Specific areas needing further attention include research in non-mangrove
coastal forests and collection of data and development of models on interaction
between the physical and ecological parameters.
There is a need to recognize that many years are
required to establish and grow bioshields to a size
and density that could offer protection against coastal hazards.
Considerable research and field
initiatives related to forests and coastal protection have been carried out
over the past several years; they provide a useful foundation for further work
to improve understanding of the protective role that forests can offer.
Assessment and design of bioshields
The following analysis sequence is
recommended to assess the potential for protection:
Identify the areas that are subject
to coastal hazard(s) and the characteristics of the hazard(s).
Identify and prioritize the assets
that need protection.
Identify the options for protection
(hard, soft and hybrid measures).
Consider the costs and benefits of
the protective measure(s).
conclusion has been reached that forests and trees should be used for
protection, the bioshield should be designed using
The following broad approaches are
Protecting and managing existing
coastal forests that provide protection to people and valuable assets against
coastal hazards in order to maximize their protective role.
Rehabilitate existing degraded
forests whose protective function has been impaired.
Plant new forests and trees in sites
where they have the potential to provide protection.
The design of protective measures
using trees and forests must take into consideration not only physical and biological
features, but also the economic, social and cultural factors of the site.
Local people should be involved in
the design and development of the bioshield so that
they have a stake in protecting and maintaining it over the long term.
The multiple functions of coastal forests and trees
(i.e. economic/livelihood protection, wildlife habitat, aesthetics) need to be
recognized and prioritized in establishing and managing coastal forests to
enhance protection. It should be recognized that these functions and objectives
may be compatible and mutually supportive, or they may be mutually exclusive.
and policy support and outreach
National governments should review
existing coastal forest management policies and regulations to assess their
practicality, e.g. regarding set-back (no construction) zones and protected
National and local governments
should develop/revise policies on coastal forest management and, as
appropriate, ICZM policies, regulations and guidelines so that they adequately
reflect the role of coastal forests/vegetation in enhancing coastal protection
and improving livelihoods.
National/local governments should
develop national/local coordination bodies for coastal area management and
establish realistic integrated and participatory coastal management plans,
incorporating bioshield development and management,
All sectors involved in the
management of coastal forests and related natural resources should be involved
in the development of disaster management policies and plans and be included in
national disaster management committees (where they exist) to ensure that the
role of forests and trees is adequately addressed.
National disaster management
committees should identify the link between disaster management and
environmental management with special emphasis on the role of coastal forests
Additional research and
multidisciplinary cooperation is needed to improve scientific knowledge and
understanding of the protective functions of forests and trees against coastal
Efforts should be made to translate
scientific knowledge into practical guidelines and technical information for
use by coastal forest managers and other relevant coastal land managers.
Capacity in coastal forest
management for protection should be strengthened through education, training
Efforts should be made to raise
awareness of the importance of forests and trees, apropos coastal protection
among disaster management decision-makers, natural resource managers, NGOs, the
private sector, local communities and the general public (e.g. through
demonstration sites, published materials and mass media such as videos, comic
books and “pocket books”).
regional and international cooperation
National agencies, the private
sector and international donors should provide financial support for research,
capacity strengthening and field implementation related to forest management
for enhanced coastal protection.
FAO should support enhanced regional
cooperation, including through workshops, working groups and technical
A regional database should be
developed on best practices, suitable species and other relevant information
for improved management of coastal forests for enhanced protection.
FAO should collect and publish
information on local and indigenous knowledge, attitudes and practices related
to the use of forests and trees for coastal protection.
Support should be provided to
initiatives (e.g. Mangroves for the Future, Green Coast and Asian Greenbelt) that
provide a framework for national actions and regional cooperation to address
the issue of coastal rehabilitation for protective purposes.