New publication on ecosystem services from mangroves and coral reefs

31/01/2006

In the front line: Shoreline protection and other ecosystem services from mangroves and coral reefs

The economic value and life saving function of coral reefs and mangroves is brought into sharp focus in a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), one which underlines the vital role that these natural features play in tourism, stemming coastal erosion, and acting as nurseries for fish, including those in the multi-million dollar aquaria trade.

The report recognises that corals and mangroves absorb up to 90 per cent of the energy of wind-generated waves. It is also underlines that conserving them is a small price to pay when set against the costs of destroying them or substituting their role with man-made structures.

The report concludes that:

  • The value of coral reefs is estimated at between $100,000 to 600,000 per square kilometer a year.
  • The estimated costs of protecting them, through the management costs of a marine protected area, is just $775 per square kilometer per annum.
  • The costs of installing artificial breakwaters made of concrete tetrapods around the Male, Maldives, following the degradation of the natural reef, was $10 million per kilometer.
  • In Indonesia, a hotel in West Lombok has spent an average of $125,000 per annum over seven years restoring its 250 metre-long beach following erosion as a result of offshore coral mining.

These are among the findings from "In the Front Line: Shoreline Protection and other Ecosystem Services from Mangroves and Coral Reefs", produced by UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) in collaboration with the International Coral Reef Action Network and IUCN-the World Conservation Union.

The study gives a stark reminder of how coral reefs and mangroves are fast disappearing.

In the front line:
Shoreline protection and other ecosystem services from mangroves and coral reefs

Press release: UNEP-WCMC Biodiversity Series No. 24

The tragic and devastating consequences of the Asian tsunami, December 2004, and the hurricanes and cyclones of 2005 were a wake-up call for the global community, dramatically drawing attention to the dangers of undermining the services that coastal ecosystems provide to humankind.

This report has gathered lessons that have been learned since these events that will be relevant to future management of the coasts in the context of severe weather events and other potential consequences of global warming. More than ever it is essential to consider the full value of ecosystem services that is the benefits that people derive from ecosystems when making decisions about coastal development.

The publication aims to help decision and policy makers around the world understand the importance of coastal habitats to humans, focusing on the role of coral reefs and mangroves. As well as coastal protection, it also addresses the huge range of other benefits provided by these ecosystems and the role that they can play in coastal development and in restoring livelihoods for those suffering from the effects of extreme events.

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