Coral reefs protect 200 million people around the world. A healthy coral reef can reduce 97 percent of a wave’s energy before it hits the shore, and just 100 meters of mangroves can reduce wave height by 66 percent. These nature-based solutions are cost-effective, self-maintaining and adaptable to sea-level rise. And they also offer other benefits to communities that traditional “grey infrastructure” solutions simply can’t, including improved water quality, more fish and new ecotourism opportunities. In fact, there are more than 70 countries and territories across the world that have million dollar coral reefs—reefs that generate more than one million dollars per square kilometer.
Economists, engineers, insurers and conservationists are together developing new science, models and strategies to evaluate and leverage the protective services of this natural infrastructure, including coral reefs and beaches, and to make sure they can be restored after a damaging storm.
Indeed, one of the most promising new developments to maximize the value of nature is the possibility of actually putting an insurance policy on it—to protect the health and protective services of these ecosystems and ensure they are restored after extreme storms hit. This combination of insurance and science could be a powerful step toward protecting and improving the health of reefs and beaches so they can continue to protect us. This approach suggests that insurance could cover other naturally protective systems like mangrove forests and coastal marshes and even oyster reefs.
The increased threats of severe storms and climate impacts are here today—but so too are replicable and scalable nature-based solutions. We need action at all levels, from the international to the local, to shift our behavior and thinking around nature and drive investment in nature at a level equal to the value it provides us.
Now is the time to examine the full suite of solutions available to us to protect and sustain coastal communities and economies—and that includes taking a closer look at the potential of insuring nature to ensure nature keeps protecting us.
We can’t do this alone, though. Visit nature.org/insuringnature to learn more about our work in this area and how you can help launch this market, helping to protect people, securing coastal economies, and ultimately sustaining the ecosystems on which we all depend.