Ocean News

It Pays to Conserve Coral

19th October 2009

Coral reefs are stunningly beautiful, harbour untold biodiversity and are a vital component of the balanced functionality of marine ecosystems. They’re also worth rather a lot of money.

Recent economic research shows that each year the services to humans provided by coral reefs are worth on average $130,000 per hectare, and up to a staggering $1.2 million per hectare. The value of services provided by coral reefs can be broken down as follows:

  • Food, raw materials, ornamental resources: average $1,100 (up to $6,000)
  • Climate regulation, moderation of extreme events, waste treatment/water purification, biological control: average $26,000 (up to $35,000)
  • Cultural services, eg. recreation/tourism: average $88,700 (up to $1.1 million)
  • Maintenance of genetic diversity: average $13,500 (up to $57,000)

Combined, coral reef services are estimated to have an average annual value of $172 billion. It is estimated that although conserving areas of coral reef may initially be costly, the benefit over a 40 year period could outweigh this cost by almost three times. The return on mangrove restoration is even greater with a cost-benefit ratio of 26.4. Such financial incentive to conserve coral reefs should be sufficient to convince those indifferent to their cultural and ecological importance of the urgent need for action.

Nonetheless the International Energy Agency is planning to propose a policy at the forthcoming climate conference in Copenhagen to stabilise carbon dioxide concentrations to 450 parts per million: coral reefs are not expected to withstand levels in excess of 350 parts per million.

For more information read this report by UnderwaterTimes.com on the global DIVERSITAS biodiversity conference where the findings were announced.