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Flood damages could double if coral reef destruction continues

28th June 2018 - Author: Matt Sheehan

Annual expected damages from floods could double without the coastal protection benefits afforded by coral reefs, while annual storm damages could triple, according to a new study by Nature Communications.

Coral reefThe study identified coral reefs as a vital component of coastal protection for both people and property, and calculated that, for 100-year storm events, flood damages would increase by 91% to $272 billion if reefs were to disappear.

It also proposed that, for countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, and Cuba, coral reefs save as much as $400 million each year in potential flood damages.

Flood risks are already set to increase in the coming years as sea levels rise due to climate change, but without near-term management coral reef loss may exacerbate the impact of these risks.

What’s more, the risks associated with coastal flooding are increasing alongside population growth and coastal development, which rarely consider flood risks and which often also lead to the destruction of coastal habitats, further heightening flood risks.

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Reefs have already suffered significant losses globally in living corals and reef structures from coastal development, sand and coral mining, overfishing and destructive fishing, storms, and climate-related bleaching events

Scientists and several international organisations, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Bank, have already expressed serious concern about the current and future condition of coral reefs, as well as the loss of the benefits they provide.

The potential of increased flood risk has resulted in recent re/insurance initiatives such as the innovative partnership between Swiss Re and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a leading global nature conservation organisation, which was announced in March 2018.

The partnership, which was revealed at the 2018 World Ocean Summit in Mexico, aims to develop a parametric insurance policy that can be used to both insure and enhance the resilience of coral reefs and the communities that rely on them.

Similar initiatives like Willis Towers Watson’s recently established Global Ecosystem Resilience Facility (GERF) also aim to use innovative finance and risk management solutions to support coastal communities that rely on vulnerable marine ecosystems and natural capital such as coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses, and fisheries.

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