Among many other things, the new state-of-climate report by the IPCC brought fresh attention to the possibility that the world could lose up to 90 percent of its coral reefs within mere three decades from now.
Luckily, according to a new study titled The Coral Reef Economy, saving them could be a highly lucrative opportunity for the private sector, which stands to gain tens of billions of dollars in the coming decade.
The study analysed two hypothetical scenarios, called Healthy Reef, and Degraded Reef, where the health thereof is determined by the level of investment allocated to protection and preservation.
“Investing in coral reefs offers a significant prize, not only economic, but importantly also for the marine life, and coastal populations who depend so heavily on healthy coral reefs for their food, livelihoods and protection,” said Jerker Tamelander, head of the UN Environment’s coral reef unit.
Under the Healthy Reef scenario which shifts our current efforts in conservation and restorative measures away from business-as-usual, Indonesia could gain as many as $37 billion in revenue, leaving Mesoamerica close behind at $35 billion.
Given that coral reefs provide more than half a billion people with not only food, but also livelihoods and economic opportunity in over 100 countries, protecting their health should be a high-priority undertaking world-wide.
“Climate change is a source of significant uncertainty – and risk. Realizing the full potential financial returns reefs can generate requires that urgent action is taken to limit climate change so as to avoid global scale reef loss,” emphasised Tamelander.
While the protection and management of coral reef ecosystems is currently funded by the public sector, it is widely recognised that reaching internationally adopted targets will be next to impossible without help from private enterprises.
Towards the end of the paper, the authors list a number of interventions designed to alleviate key coral reef stressors in both the short and medium term.
“The results of this study highlight that interventions targeting sustainable fisheries, wastewater management, and erosion management could have a significant and positive impact on the health of coral reefs and the reef-dependent economy,” wrote the authors in their paper.