Shelter from the storm

Mangroves provide important protection from wind damage during storms

Story highlights

  • New theoretical model furthers mangroves importance in protection from wind damage
  • Study uses case of 1999 storm in Odisha, India and determined mangroves helped prevent 3.17 million USD of damages
  • Mangroves as wind protection is a unique contribution to their role in storm protection and as an ecosystem service

In a recently published paper centre theme leader Beijer researcher Anne-Sophie Crépin and her colleague Saudamini Das at the Institute of Economic Growth, University of Delhi Enclave look at the role of mangroves in protecting against wind damage during storms.

The role of mangrove forests as shields for storm surges is well known, and they also seem to serve as breakwaters during tsunamis. But their part in also breaking wind velocities and protecting from damage caused by wind has not previously been investigated.

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In order to see whether mangroves can slow down wind velocity and thereby provide protection, the authors built a theoretical model. They calibrated it to simulate wind damage caused by a storm that hit the state of Odisha in 1999, and ran the model looking for a relation between mangroves and damage caused by wind.

The model showed indeed that the presence of mangrove forests along the coastline served to decrease the amount of damage from wind to houses.

“We found that in villages that were protected by mangroves there was also significantly less damage to houses caused by wind, the forests along the coast seem to break wind velocity so much that we see a clear pattern where villages located behind the forests were not as hard hit”

Anne-Sophie Crépin, co-author

Using empirical data from records of the storm in Odisha the authors were able to test the accuracy of the predictions given by the model, finding that they provided an accurate representation of what happened in real-life.

“We could see that the damage that was simulated in the model matched the damage that was recorded after the storm quite accurately. This validates the model and tells us that we have calibrated it in a good way, to get the most realistic results,” explains Crépin.

A wise investment
Even in villages located relatively far from the coastline and the mangroves, the authors found that there was significantly less damage to houses compared to similarly located villages without the mangroves. 

The authors also calculated the monetary value of the reconstruction of damage to property that was avoided due to the protection that the mangroves provide, and estimate that 177 USD per hectare of mangroves which corresponds to 3.17 million USD for the study area was saved (in 1999 prices). 

”These results add to the knowledge we have of the important roles that mangroves play. Protection from wind damage had not been examined before, but we have now clearly demonstrated that it is a factor to consider in management and protection of mangrove forests,” says Crépin.

“Our study provides further evidence of the storm protection ecosystem services that mangroves provide. This is another reason to invest in keeping mangrove forests,” she concludes.

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Das, S., Crépin, A.-S. Mangroves can provide protection against wind damage during storms, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science (2013),

Download publication (available until 31 January 2014)

Anne-Sophie Crépin is an environmental and resource economist focusing on resources and services that stem from ecosystems. Most of her work is based on small theoretical dynamic models that combine relevant economic factors with complex ecosystem dynamics.


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