A new analysis found the flood protection benefits of coral reefs save the global economy $4 billion dollars a year. Christopher Intagliata reports.
Coral reefs are already appreciated for their beauty. But they provide another, more tangible benefit, too.
"Every day waves are coming ashore. And of course during storms you might have 20-foot waves. The reef is breaking those waves, essentially dissipating that energy before they hit the shoreline."
Mike Beck, a marine scientist for the Nature Conservancy and U.C. Santa Cruz.
"If we're to lose just a little bit of our reef—I mean we modeled just losing the topmost meter of reef—storm costs would double."
Beck and his team used 30 years of wind and wave data, combined with hydrodynamic, ecological and economic models, to figure out what future floods would look like, with shorter reefs. "And you repeat that, all around the world, for all 72,000 kilometers of coral reef coastline."
Overall, they found that the flood protection benefits of coral reefs save the global economy $4 billion dollars a year. Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Mexico, and Cuba are the biggest beneficiaries. The details are in the journal Nature Communications. [Michael W. Beck et al., The global flood protection savings provided by coral reefs]
"National economies only account for what you take from ecosystems. That is, what you harvest every year gets included in your GDP—not the benefit of keeping it there." By pinning a number on the flood protection benefits of coral reefs, Beck says he hopes government economists will see corals as more than just a draw for snorkelers.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]