Coral Reefs Provide Critical Coastal Protection
New study shows that coral reefs provide risk-reduction benefits to hundreds of millions of coastal inhabitants around the world
Stronger storms, rising seas, and flooding are placing hundreds of millions people at risk around the world, and a big part of the solution to decrease those risks is just offshore. A new study finds that coral reefs provide substantial protection against natural hazards by reducing wave energy that would otherwise impact coastlines by an average of 97 percent.
“Coral reefs are wonderful natural features that, when healthy, can provide wave-reduction benefits comparable to those of many artificial coastal defenses, and they can adapt to sea-level rise,” said Curt Storlazzi, a coauthor from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). “This research shows that coral reef restoration can be a cost-effective way to decrease the hazards coastal communities face due to the combination of storms and sea-level rise.”
Published in the journal Nature Communications, this study by an international team of researchers from the University of Bologna, The Nature Conservancy, the USGS, Stanford University, and the University of California Santa Cruz provides the first global synthesis of the contributions of coral reefs to risk reduction and adaptation across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.
Lead author Filippo Ferrario from the University of Bologna said, “Restoration and conservation of coral reefs is an important and cost-effective solution to reduce risks from coastal hazards and climate change.”
The median cost for building artificial breakwaters is $19,791 per meter, compared to $1,290 per meter for coral reef restoration projects.
“Coral reefs serve as an effective first line of defense to incoming waves, storms and rising seas,” said Michael Beck, lead marine scientist of The Nature Conservancy and a coauthor of the study. “200 million people across more than 80 nations are at risk if coral reefs are not protected and restored.”
These are people in villages, towns, and cities who live in low-elevation, risk-prone coastal areas (below 10-meter elevation) and within 50 kilometers of coral reefs. In terms of number of people who receive risk-reduction benefits from coral reefs, the top 15 countries include:
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Coral Reefs Provide Critical Protection to Coastal Inhabitants