The Role of Wetland Ecosystems as Critical Infrastructure for Climate Change Adaptation


Approximately $3.2 trillion USD will be spent globally on transportation, electricity and sanitation infrastructure in 2013, with an estimated $57 trillion USD investment needed by 2030 to accommodate growing populations. Natural areas are increasingly being recognised for their ability to act as infrastructure, while also providing a range of ecological, economical and social benefits. Wetlands in particular have garnered increased attention for their role in mitigating impacts related to climate change. Indeed, wetlands have the capacity to absorb the impacts of floods and storm surges; however the conditions under which wetlands are the best solution to meet these rising challenges are not always clear-cut. Understanding both the capacity and value of ecosystem services provided by wetlands is vital for strategic decision-making and urban planning, and increasing attention has been focused around the spatial variability of ecosystem service supply and demand throughout vulnerable areas. This presentation will provide an overview of the state-of-the-art for the assessment of the climate change adaptation potential of wetlands, as well as present cases in which wetlands have been successfully, or unsuccessfully, employed as infrastructure. A framework for streamlined ecosystem service assessment of wetland infrastructure will be presented, using Lake Zürich, in Zürich, Switzerland, as a case study. The framework will provide a mechanism for understanding the infrastructure potential of wetland area in terms of locally specific supply and demand defined spatially through quantitative and qualitative means. The presentation will also discuss limitations of such assessment frameworks, including challenges with quantifying uncertainty and risk.

Author Information
Suzanne Greene, University of Zürich, Switzerland
Owen Petchey, University of Zürich, Switzerland

Paper Information
Conference: ECSEE2014
Stream: Environmental Sustainability & Environmental Management: Freshwater

This paper is part of the ECSEE2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon