And the aftermath of the Asian tsunami has given valuable insight into handling extreme coastal disasters - inevitable as the world's coastal population is set to double by 2030 and global warming continues to exacerbate extreme weather conditions.
The research team from Australia, US, Sweden and UK, led by Dr Neil Adger of the University of East Anglia, is calling for action that builds on the existing resilience of coastal environments and communities when setting up disaster management policies to cope with cyclones, hurricanes, tsunamis and floods.
The Social-Ecological Resilience to Coastal Disasters report concludes that healthy ecosystems are much more likely to absorb the shock and provide protection from a coastal disaster than man-made structures such as sea walls or artificial reefs.
Globally 23 per cent of the world's population (1.2 billion people) live within 100 km of the coast and this figure is likely to increase to 50 per cent in the next twenty five years as people flock to coastal cities many these being Asian cities.
To compound this, many weather-related disasters are becoming more destructive and intense due to climate change.
The report is based on two case studies the Asian tsunami in 2004 and the impact of severe storms in the Caribbean over the past twenty years.
The tsunami had less impact in areas where ecosystems were protected and local communities were aware of coastal hazards than those places where development went right up to the coastline.
Sand dunes, mangrove forests and coral reefs helped reduce the energy of tsunami waves in Sri Lanka by acting as natural barriers, the Stockholm Environment Institute discovered in a rapid assessment of the environmental
Contact: Nicola Barrell
University of East Anglia