A tropical beach

Environmental Economist Marta Vicarelli Discusses Ecosystem-Based Disaster Risk Reduction During United Nations Webinar

Marta Vicarelli, assistant professor of economics and public policy, recently presented research on Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR) during a global webinar hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Marta Vicarelli
Marta Vicarelli

Over the last three years, UNEP, in partnership with the Partners for Resilience, has developed and demonstrated Eco-DRR models in Ethiopia, Uganda, Haiti, India and Indonesia. Vicarelli joined representatives from the U.N., the Red Cross and Wetlands International for the webinar – held on International DRR Day, Oct. 13 – to share results, scalable features and knowledge gained from Eco-DRR models implemented in these countries and present cost-benefit analyses of the field projects.

Vicarelli had previously spent six years as part of an international, multi-disciplinary team of 28 researchers that examined nearly 20 years’ worth of peer-reviewed studies on the impacts of Eco-DRR, which summarized for the first time in June 2021 the state of knowledge of ecosystem services and functions for DRR. This past summer, she co-authored a series of reports based on the study to assess the economic efficiency and equity of nature-based solutions that focus on ecosystem restoration, conservation and sustainable management to reduce disaster risk and strengthen community resilience. A number of environmental conservation and public policy students contributed to the project, which was a collaboration connected to the School of Public Policy’s public policy workshop course.

“This project has exceeded my expectations in the extent of the positive impacts generated,” Vicarelli says. “By creating a unique pedagogical and professional experience for our graduate students, we produced economic analyses that are attracting great interest in the policy world; for instance, our results are being used by the United Nations in meetings with international donors such as the European Commission. In addition, we have created learning modules for practitioners in developing countries in a capacity building effort. Not only have we achieved an exceptional level of outreach, but we have also set the foundations for future research. Several collaborators from around the world have already expressed interest in supporting our UMass team toward the publication of our results in peer-reviewed journals.”

Vicarelli notes that one of the exceptional aspects of this international project is that it included graduate students from multiple departments at UMass Amherst.

“While the project was conceived by the School of Public Policy,” she says, “it became stronger thanks to synergies with the School of Earth and Sustainability, the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. This success story is a testament of the fact that UMass Amherst is fast becoming one of the nation’s premiere institutions for sustainability.”

“It was a huge honor to be invited to join the United Nation Environment Program and Partners for Resilience in this global project,” Vicarelli says, “and we hope to pursue our collaboration in future projects.”

A complete recording of the webinar, Up-Scaling Community Resilience through Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR): Learnings from field projects in Ethiopia, Uganda, India, Indonesia, and Haiti – as well as videos focused on global DRR and the research in each of the five countries studied by Vicarelli and her colleagues – can be found on the YouTube page of the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction.