Low-lying coastal zones are home to more 2 billion people and some of the most agriculturally productive land. But global sea levels are rising and these coastal zones, their people, agriculture and biodiversity, are threatened with increased flooding and seawater inundation.

Coastal habitats, such as mangroves and saltmarsh, can act as natural sea defences, but human population growth has led to their damage and loss, mostly through reclamation for agriculture. Creating new mangrove and saltmarsh could protect coastal communities from rising sea levels, but this needs land. Do the benefits of flood defence outweigh the loss of high-value agricultural land? Can habitat be successfully created? And are communities willing to ‘give land back to the sea’?

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