Ecosystems play a potentially important role in sustainably reducing the risk of disaster events worldwide. Yet, to date, there are few comprehensive studies that summarize the state of knowledge of ecosystem services and functions for disaster risk reduction. This paper builds scientific evidence through a review of 529 English-language articles published between 2000 and 2019. It catalogues the extent of knowledge on, and confidence in, ecosystems in reducing disaster risk. The data demonstrate robust links and cost-effectiveness between certain ecosystems in reducing specific hazards, something that was revealed to be particularly true for the role of vegetation in the stabilization of steep slopes. However, the published research was limited in geographic distribution and scope, with a concentration on urban areas of the Global North, with insufficient relevant research on coastal, dryland and watershed areas, especially in the Global South. Many types of ecosystem can provide sustainable and multifunctional approaches to disaster risk reduction. Yet, if they are to play a greater role, more attention is needed to fill research gaps and develop performance standards.