The term natural hazards refer to events such as cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis, i.e. events that occur in the physical environment and can potentially cause harm to people and property. A disaster is however defined by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) as “a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources”.
Disasters are thus defined by the impacts of these hazards on a society. Therefore, we can say that there is no such thing as 'natural disasters'. Disasters are mainly social constructs: they are largely determined by how a society manages its environment, the conditions of vulnerability that are present, its capacity to face adversity and what resources are available for recovery. So while natural hazards cannot be prevented most of the times, the ability for these to result in disasters can on the other hand be prevented or at least mitigated trough effective disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies. This where ecosystems comes in as a key DRR tool to reduce the damage caused by natural hazards.
"Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR) is the sustainable management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems to provide services that reduce disaster risk by mitigating hazards and by increasing livelihood resilience"
Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR)