Understanding the risk landscape of coral reefs 

Coral reefs protect coastal infrastructure and communities from ocean-derived risks. Studies show that reefs can cut wave energy by up to 97%, significantly reducing the flood damage caused by storms. But reefs themselves are being degraded by ocean warming, pollution and hurricanes, decreasing their capacity to provide this vital protection. There is an urgent need for investment in reef resilience, and one model for catalysing this is the new concept of reef insurance being pioneered by ORRAA member The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Building on TNC’s preliminary reef insurance model – currently being implemented in Quintana Roo, Mexico – ORRAA members TNC and UNDP are leading a global analysis aimed at assessing the severity of risks faced by coral reefs globally; understanding the socio-economic contexts and enabling environments needed to deploy reef insurance; and determining the geographic scale of the challenge, the extent of investment needed, and the expected outcomes.

This global study is providing technical and financial information to reef managers and coastal communities to inform decisions on how to invest scarce resources to address the risk to coral reefs from a changing climate and ocean. It will also facilitate disaster risk responses and plans that build resilience, protecting infrastructure and the built environment, as well as the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities.

TNC, UNDP, and other project partners are working to scale the Mexico model in other geographies with the aim of creating self-sustaining insurance markets able to strengthen the role of coral reefs and other ecosystems in safeguarding vulnerable coastal communities.