Functioning ecosystems can buffer communities from many negative impacts of a changing climate. Flooding, in particular, is one of the most damaging natural disasters globally and is projected to increase in many regions. However, estimating the value of “green infrastructure” in mitigating downstream floods remains a challenge. We estimate the economic value of flood mitigation by the Otter Creek floodplains and wetlands to Middlebury, VT, for Tropical Storm Irene and nine other floods. We used first principles to simulate hydrographs for scenarios with and without flood mitigation by upstream wetlands and floodplains. We then mapped flood extents for each scenario and calculated monetary damages to inundated structures. Our analysis indicates damage reductions of 84–95% for Tropical Storm Irene and 54–78% averaged across all 10 events. We estimate that the annual value of flood mitigation services provided to Middlebury, VT, exceeds $126,000 and may be as high as $450,000. Economic impacts of this magnitude stress the importance of floodplain and wetland conservation, warrant the consideration of ecosystem services in land use decisions, and make a compelling case for the role of green infrastructure in building resilience to climate change.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Special thanks to Brendan Fisher, Drew Guswa, Mike Kline, Roy Schiff, and Charlie Nicholson for their thoughtful comments, as well as Ned Swanberg, Arne Bomblies, Paul Marangelo, Kim Greenwood, and Michael Coe for their input and advice. The authors also thank the Lintilhac Foundation and the USDA McIntire-Stennis award no. 2014-32100-06050 to the University of Vermont for funding. J. O'Neil-Dunne was partially funded by the AmericaView consortium and from the National Science Foundation under grant DEB1053566 .
- Climate resilience
- Economic valuation
- Ecosystem services
- Flood mitigation
- Green infrastructure