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Curious about the value of nature in protecting people and property from the impacts of climate change and storms?
For the past decade, the Coastal Resilience Lab and the newly founded Center for Coastal Climate Resilience have been rigorously valuing the benefits of nature. Some key statistics from our research are provided below.
On average, coral reefs reduce wave energy by 97%, offering significant coastal
o The effectiveness of coral reefs for coastal hazard risk reduction and adaptation.
Without adaptation, climate change is expected to increase direct economic
damages from coastal flooding over 14 times higher than present-day costs by the
end of this century, under high-emissions scenarios.
o Small Island Developing States under threat by rising seas even in a 1.5 °C
warming world. (Vousdoukus et al 2023)
If coral reefs around the globe were to disappear, the annual capital damages to
property caused by storm-related flooding would more than double (118%
increase) from almost $4 billion to over $8 billion USD.
o The global flood protection savings provided by coral reefs. (Beck et al 2018)
A marsh with a 50% vegetation cover, regardless of the morphology, will likely
reduce storm wave energy by up to 95% within the first 100m of the marsh.
o How much marsh restoration is enough to deliver wave attenuation coastal
protection benefits? (Castagno et al 2022)
Globally, over 85% of oyster reefs have been lost to due to extraction, habitat
degradation, and invasive species invasion.
o Oyster reefs at risk and recommendations for conservation, restoration, and
management. (Beck et al. 2011)
The protection provided by all the coral reefs in the United States averts over $1.8
billion USD in flood-related damages each year.
o The value of US coral reefs for flood risk reduction. (Reguero et al. 2021)
Annually, the existing mangroves in the Philippines reduce the risk of flooding to
613,500 people and prevent over $1 billion worth of damages to property.
o Valuing the protection services of mangroves at national scale: The Philippines.
(Menendez et al. 2018)
Nature-based adaptation solutions, including wetland, oyster reef, and barrier
island restoration, could avert between ~$50-65 billion of climate-related damages
to infrastructure in the Gulf region by the year 2050.
o Comparing the cost effectiveness of nature-based and coastal adaptation: A
case study from the Gulf Coast of the United States. (Reguero et al. 2018)
The projected degradation of Florida’s coral reefs, and subsequent increase in
flood risk, is estimated to cost over $823 million USD in direct and indirect costs,
o Rigorously Valuing the Impact of Projected Coral Reef Degradation on Coastal
Hazard Risk in Florida. (Storlazzi et al. 2021)
During Hurricane Sandy, naturally occurring wetlands provided protection against
$625 million worth of direct flood damages.
o The Value of Coastal Wetlands for Flood Damage Reduction in the Northeastern
USA. (Narayan et al. 2017)
The Coastal Resilience Lab’s core objective is to study role of coastal ecosystems in providing
natural defenses to people and property. Our work aims to measure, understand, and predict
current and future coastal climate risks and explore how Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) can
help to mitigate, manage, and reduce the social, economic, and ecological impacts of those
risks. We investigate the effectiveness of NBS for risk reduction by assessing coastal hazards,
analyzing risk, and quantifying the benefits that NBS provide.
Nature-Based Solutions would not be tangible solutions, however, if we did not think about how
to develop, implement, and expand them on the ground. Thus, we also seek to understand
exactly how and where to best utilize these solutions, to provide the most effective and durable
protection and benefits to coasts and people, around the globe. This includes the development
of financing mechanisms, such as national accounting, resilience insurance, insurance policies
for natural habitats and NBS, other incentives for the restoration of natural habitats, and the
integration of NBS into the risk industry. We also work with teams of researchers, non-profits,
government agencies and organizations, and private industry partners to help design, test, and
operationalize green and hybrid green-gray NBS that meet the needs of a diverse range of
stakeholders susceptible to burgeoning coastal climate-related hazards.
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