Natural disasters, health and wetlands: A Pacific small island developing state perspective
School of Science
Natural disasters in the context of public health continue to be a challenge for small island developing states (SIDS) of the Pacific. Pacific SIDS are particularly sensitive to disaster risk giving geographic isolation, developing economies, lack of adaptive capacity and the interaction of climate variability with rapid environmental change. Health risks are amplified by the high levels of dependence on wetland resources and population concentration along low-lying floodplains and coastal margins. Thus, the health consequences of disasters cannon be considered in isolation from their wetland ecosystem settings. Wetlands provide protective and essential provisioning services in disasters, yet can also become vehicles for poor health outcomes. In this chapter we review the direct and indirect health consequences of interruptions to wetland ecosystem services associated with disaster events and emphasize how longer-term health effects of natural disasters can be exacerbated when wetland services are lost. We examine patterns of ill health for those populations in Pacific SIDS that are associated with wetlands and provide examples of how wetlands can either mitigate or contribute to theses health outcomes. Finally, we identify opportunities and examples of improved management of wetland ecosystems for human health benefits under local to regional-scale management and wetland conservation. We suggest applying principles of Integrated Island Management (IIM) as regionally appropriate means to guide those seeking to build this understanding.