Evaluating the effects of open space configurations in reducing flood damage along the Gulf of Mexico coast
Economic losses from floods along the Gulf of Mexico have triggered much debate on different strategies to reduce risk and future adverse impacts from storm events. While much of the discussion has focused on structural engineering approaches to flood mitigation, increasing emphasis is being placed on avoidance strategies, such as the protection of undeveloped open spaces. This study leverage previous work to examine undeveloped lands across approximately 2600 watersheds along the Gulf of Mexico.
Different types and spatial configurations of naturally-occurring open spaces are statistically evaluated across landscapes for their effects on reducing observed flood losses (economic damage to building and/or contents) under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) occurring from 2008 through 2014. Statistical models isolate the influence of natural open spaces, while controlling for multiple socioeconomic, environmental, and development-based local conditions. Results estimate the dollar-savings in flood losses by maintaining open spaces over time. This study provides quantitative guidance on which types and spatial characteristics of open spaces are most effective in reducing the adverse impacts from floods. Findings indicate that large, expansive, and continuous patches of naturally-occurring open spaces most effectively reduce losses from flood events.