Underutilised ecosystems

The issue

More needs to be done to mainstream ecosystem-based approaches into disaster risk reduction policy and practice at the local and national level.

60% of community members say that ecosystem-based approaches aren’t used in building resilience in their community. 

Key facts

56% of local actors believe that ecosystems can protect their community from hazards.

Construction and built environment solutions to flood prevention are often given preference because they’re perceived as faster to implement and more effective.

52% of community members report that ecosystems are not even considered in development plans.


“Today trees have owners. And that harms us because it’s through trees where everything starts. If we talk about how our land eroded it’s because our trees are missing.”

— Jimena Peiniquiu, Saavedra, Chile


There is global recognition that ecosystems have a vital role to play in disaster risk reduction. Healthy and well managed ecosystems act as a natural structure to prevent hazards.

For example, mangroves can reduce the height and energy of tsunamis. Vegetation can reduce the occurrence of landslides by strengthening the structural integrity of mountain slopes. And peatlands can reduce flooding by storing and releasing water slowly.

Well maintained ecosystems can also be critical for providing water, food and shelter.

Providing for these basic needs means people are less vulnerable to hazards when they strike, and are able to recover more quickly.

Regional plans such as the Programme of Action for the Implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 in Africa include objectives that highlight the importance of ecosystem management in achieving the goals set out in the post-2015 frameworks.9

But little progress has been made in mainstreaming ecosystem-based approaches into disaster risk reduction policy and practice at the national level.

The majority of ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction initiatives only occur at the project or pilot level.10 And Views from the Frontline data shows this isn’t systematically happening at the local level.

It’s hard to quantify the contribution of ecosystem services to disaster risk reduction, in terms of hazard mitigation or vulnerability reduction. And this is a barrier to informed decision making, as many people are not fully aware of the opportunities ecosystems can offer.

In addition, there’s a lack of research around certain types of ecosystems and the roles they can play in building resilience.

Ecosystems can help protect communities from natural hazards, but they are being routinely destroyed or damaged by development initiatives.

There are cases where ecosystems are being considered in building resilience to threats. For example, in Hinatuan in the Philippines, women are actively involved in restoring and managing mangrove forests, which serve as a buffer against storm surges and tsunamis.

In addition, these mangrove areas bring a wealth of crabs and shells, which can be used for food and extra income for these women, enhancing their resilience.11 But these examples need to become the norm.


All Views from the Frontline data is publicly available to explore online – with options to disaggregate by country, respondent type and more. You can also find out about the survey methodology.

References and photos

Photo (top): A mangrove forest in Siargao island in the Philippines. 55% of all Views from the Frontline survey participants globally say that ecosystems contribute to protecting their communities from hazards. Yet 32% report that ecosystems are not considered at all when implementing development plans. Credit: Alex Punker

Photo and quote (above):  Two-thirds of people who took part in Views from the Frontline in Chile say ecosystems have been impacted due to development. Credit: Srijan Nandan/GNDR



10 Renaud et al. (2013). The Relevance of Ecosystems for DRR. In: Renaud et al. (eds.) The Role of Ecosystems in Disaster Risk Reduction. United Nations, New York.