The insurance value of nature – ecosystem-based solutions to increase the resilience against climate change and natural disasters

11:15 Thursday 30 May


Room S7


Roland Olschewski (Switzerland) 1; Christian Unterberger (Switzerland) 1; Elena Lopez Gunn (Spain) 2; Roxane Marchal (Switzerland) 1


This session highlights research results concerning the insurance value of nature and presents different approaches to harness ecosystem-based solutions to increase society’s resilience to climate change and natural hazards. Ecosystems provide a multitude of ecosystem services. Among others they supply and regulate water, sequester carbon and control gravitational hazards. Via these services ecosystems play an important role in mitigating the impact of climate change and adapting to it. While technical adaptation and mitigation measures often come with considerable costs and limited lifetime, nature-based solutions rely on services directly provided by ecosystems to address environmental, social and economic challenges in a sustainable way.

These approaches can provide precautionary and cost-efficient alternatives to limit the magnitude and impact of climate change. Additionally, ecosystem-based solutions generate co-benefits, such as the restoration of degraded ecosystems, which positively affect communities’ beyond the mere reduction in damage potential (e.g., increased seafood abundance supporting on-shore fishing, improved urban and rural environments supporting income opportunities).

To assure that ecosystems provide these services they need to be managed accordingly. This session focuses on nature-based approaches as a way to naturally adapt to climate change by increasing the resilience against different types of natural hazard via selected ecosystem management strategies.

When it comes to the implementation of nature-based solutions, local conditions play an important role. This includes the awareness and acceptance of communities, local coping capacities as well as specific environmental and biological conditions. Researchers from three different projects (NAIAD, ResilNam and DIVES) will evaluate ecosystem-based solutions in different geographical locations and at various spatial scales regarding their capacity to increase the local resilience to climate change and natural hazards. Being aware of the importance of local knowledge and acceptance when it comes to planning and implementing these solutions, ways to achieve social acceptance and to overcome barriers for implementation will be discussed.

Although ecosystem-based solutions are supported and inspired by nature, their implementation comes with additional costs. Forests need to be managed to retain their protective functions against natural hazards and active interventions in the ecosystems surrounding watersheds and coastal regions are needed to reduce the vulnerability against flooding. Hence, when analysing the insurance value of nature it is important to account for arising costs, contrast them to the damages prevented and compare them to conventional risk reduction measures. By presenting cost-benefit analyses and emphasizing the co-benefits of nature-based solutions our session will capture also these aspects.

Target audience

This session targets an audience interested in discussing to which extent ecosystems are able to provide nature-based solutions in disaster risk reduction. Our topic will be of interest to scholars and practitioners working on insurance solutions for climate and weather related extreme events. Based on the presentation of different case studies, attendees get first-hand information on the positive impact nature-based solutions can have on resilience at the individual as well as the societal level. Additionally, the session is designed to share expertise and knowledge from the insurance sector’s point of view on damage modelling and assessing the role of natural infrastructures in risk reduction.

Proposed format for the session

There will be four speakers who will present nature-based adaptation measures against various types of natural hazards in different geographical locations. Each presenter will have a total time of 20 minutes, 15 minutes for presentation and 5 minutes for discussion. Further, it is envisaged to show a short documentary (9 minutes) about nature-based solutions to increase the resilience against floods. It will be followed by a panel discussion, where on the one hand the audience can follow up on questions concerning the presentations. On the other hand the moderators will ask questions touching issues, such as how uncertainties in modelling nature based solutions can be coped with and how to promote the use of nature-based solutions in the public as well as the private domain. Also the trade-off between bottom-up and top-down approaches in implementing the measures is a potential discussion topic

Contributing Authors abstracts

1. Peter Antkowiak, Chair of Forestry Economics and Forest Planning, University of Freiburg, Project DIVES:

Alpine forests are an important protection against gravitational hazards such as landslides, avalanches or rockfall. At the same time they are subject to a variety of disturbances such as storms or insect outbreaks which are expected to increase with climate change. Although the regulatory functions of forests are commonly acknowledged, payments for these ecosystem services are poorly developed and prioritizing them in management is often unprofitable for forest owners. Based on case studies in Switzerland we test whether and how management measures improving the protective capacity of forests could be marketed as a natural insurance provided by forest management. To disentangle the dynamic interaction of forest growth, management measures and the impact of disturbance events, we couple the hybrid forest simulator PICUS with the RAMMS mass movement simulation software. An intermediate software layer schedules management actions and disturbance events and feeds disturbance effects on the forest back into the main simulation. By quantifying additional management costs and the value of disaster risk reduction resulting from different management scenarios we develop optimized management strategies. Together with local stakeholders we develop innovative tools to integrate ecosystem resilience management with the current system of financial property insurance.

2. Philip Bubeck, Institute of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Potsdam, Project ResilNam:

Thua Thien Hue province in central Vietnam faces frequent floods from various sources. These floods are aggravated by socio-economic factors including unstable livelihoods, rapid urbanization, and the disappearance of urban and coastal ecosystems. Women tend to be especially vulnerable to flood impacts. Their flood resilience is commonly undermined by disadvantages in social, cultural, economic and political domains. However, women are also important managers of local ecosystems and they have the knowledge and experience to foster community resilience to climate change. Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) uses ecosystem services to help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. We implemented EbA measures across the Hue province to strengthen women’s role in disaster risk management and climate change adaptation. Jointly with local communities and organizations we restored urban water bodies in Hue city and planted mangroves in two coastal communities. Findings confirm that floods have a particularly strong and long-lasting impact on women. Also, women have a higher willingness to pay for ecosystem services provided by mangroves and urban water bodies. A cost-benefit analysis reveals that EbA measures aimed at reducing flood risk result in high net returns on investment due to a reduction in expected annual damage and due to their co-benefits.

3. David Moncoulon and Roxanne Marchal, Caisse de Reassurance, (CCR) France and Phllippe Le Coent, BRGM, France

The talk aims to present damage modelling results from the NAIAD taskforce CCR/BRGM on the Lez demonstration site in Southern France. The Lez watershed is challenged by extreme Cevenoles events threating people, industries and farmers. Those living in flood-prone areas face the risk of severe damage to their infrastructures due to overflow hazard, as well as those living in the continuous-discontinuous urban areas facing the risk of damage due to run-off hazard. These hazards can hamper society’s resilience. Without flood risk analysis combined with nature-based solutions (NBS), opportunities to reduce vulnerability could be missed and the impact of NBS implementation may be unassessed or under-valuated. With these concerns in mind, this study addresses flood vulnerability and risk in the Lez watershed including the Montpellier agglomeration. A GIS-based mapping, water-related hazard modeling and analysis of karst role in flood mitigation approached were applied. The risk assessment reveals the importance of the karst system in flood mitigation and of NBS for curbing run-off. Concerning climate change adaptation, we argue for the need of implementing nature-based solutions in order to reduce insured damages by mitigating water-related hazards (overflow, run-off and marine submersion).

4. Mark Mulligan, Kings College, London and Sophia Burke, AMBIOTEK, UK

Climate change adaptation through natural flood management: open access tools for flood management investment strategy and effectiveness assessment: Models can be used for large scale NFM strategy, but measurement is most appropriate for assessment of in situ NFM effectiveness because of the small scale and nature of NFM and the cost of data for modelling at these scales. As part of the H2020 NAIAD project, a series of web connected sensors designed to monitor NFM effectiveness have been developed and deployed as a SmartRiver system. SmartRiver is assessing the contribution of NFM to mitigate flooding in rivers in demo areas across Europe , monitoring the effectiveness of leaky dams, beaver dams, conservation agriculture, wetlands and retention ponds in reducing downstream flood peaks. These stations combined with the freely accessible EcoActuary tool, a web based spatial policy support system supporting strategic investment in NFM to reduce risks to downstream assets at scales from local, through basin to national. EcoActuary low-costtRIver combine to provide an open, accessible and low cost Internet of Things solution to NF strategy and monitoring with sensors that are easy to build and low maintenance, reporting these in near real time to a web-based NFM effectiveness tool.

5. Elena Lopez Gunn and Beatriz Mayor, ICATALIST, Spain

2 – ICATALIST; 3 – GEUS; 4 – Municipality of Copenhagen; 5 – KCL; 6 – IRSA; 7 – BRGM; 8 – BDG; 9 – Geoecomar; 10 – Field Factors; 11 – IHE- Delft; 12 – DELTARES

The paper explores the concept of the insurance value of ecosystems i.e the value of the sustained capacity of ecosystems to cope with external disturbances that includes both an estimate of the risk reduction due to the physical presence of an ecosystem and the capacity to sustain risk reduction. The paper will present its operationalisation for the case of the Medina aquifer coming from the NAIAD Project looking at droughts, and the development of Natural Assurance Schemes. It looks at hybrid and green measures like managed aquifer recharge and soil conservation. We will show the potential for collaborative solutions to deliver water security for people and ecosystems. Results indicate that: first, nature-based solutions should be considered as combined measures into strategies, like management aquifer recharge, flood plan restoration and natural flood management, soil conservation and crop adaptability to changing climate.

Second, need to consider alternative paths away from intensive water use through new rural development visions; third, new sources of income to decouple local wellbeing from intensive groundwater use are being explored in the case of Spain. In terms of conclusions, preliminary results highlight the important role of institutional arrangements and good quality data, that can help align incentives with positive environmental values and outcomes through so called natural assurance schemes. These are schemes that secure groundwater resources through collective action to protect ecosystems that in turn assure human wellbeing. In terms of recommendations the paper highlights: first the importance of a systematic approach to collectively define the problem and portfolio of solutions, to explore different pathways that include nature-based solutions that can be included into natural assurance schemes to capture this value.