Discussion Paper

Flooding and Resilience: Valuing Conservation Investments in a World with Climate Change

Dec 6, 2013 | Carolyn Kousky, Margaret A. Walls, Ziyan (Jessica) Chu


In this evaluation of the climate resilience benefits of a natural infrastructure investment in the Meramec Greenway in Missouri, results suggest that the benefits in terms of avoided flood damages are significant.


Communities in the United States are showing increasing interest in the use of forests, wetlands, and other natural areas to provide protection against extreme events. As the climate changes and such events become more frequent and/or more severe, investments in the conservation of natural areas should become more valuable. But how much more valuable is an open question. In this study, we evaluate the climate resilience benefits of a green infrastructure investment in Missouri: the Meramec Greenway. A buffer of forested lands and other open space, the Meramec Greenway runs along the Meramec River from its confluence with the Mississippi River south of St. Louis into the Ozark uplands. The study builds off of a recent benefit–cost analysis of the Greenway conducted by the authors but evaluates the additional benefits of floodplain conservation that might be provided if floods in the region (a) become more frequent and/or (b) worsen in severity. Results suggest that the benefits of the Greenway in terms of avoided flood damages are greater in both types of climate change scenarios. However, the size of the benefits under current conditions is the more important finding; climate change reinforces the value of the conservation investment but is not the main story.