The Policy Research Working Paper Series disseminates the findings of work in progress to encourage the exchange of ideas about development issues. An objective of the series is to get the findings out quickly, even if the presentations are less than fully polished. The papers carry the names of the authors and should be cited accordingly. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/World Bank and its affiliated organizations, or those of the Executive Directors of the World Bank or the governments they represent.
Policy Research Working Paper 9863 In recent decades, hurricane frequency and intensity have increased in the Caribbean Basin. From 2000 to 2012, more than 100 hurricanes impacted lives, infrastructure, and economic activity along the region’s shorelines. Studies suggest that mangrove forests’ dense root systems might mitigate the impact of hurricanes, which would help stabilize the coastline and prevent erosion from waves and storms. Although many tropical mangroves are found on Caribbean coasts, climatic and anthropogenic events have been clearing these wetland ecosystems at an annual rate of 1 percent since the 1990s. This study quantifies the effects of hurricane windstorms on economic activity using nightlight as a proxy at the highest spatial resolution data available (1 square kilometer). Using different widths of the mangrove belt, it measures levels of mangrove natural protection against the impact of hurricanes and studies the broader socioeconomic and environmental effects of this protection. The results suggest that while major hurricanes reduce nightlight by approximately 2 percent and up to 16 percent in storm surge prone areas, the presence of mangroves on the coast mitigates the impact of hurricanes, reducing nightlight by 1–6 percent.