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Mapping the Risk Reduction Benefits of Coral Reef Conservation

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report, Rigorously Valuing the Role of U.S. Coral Reefs in Coastal Hazard Risk Reduction, the degradation of near-shore habitats, particularly coral reefs, increases the risk of flooding in coastal communities. However, mitigation and protective prioritization often fails to account for the economic protection of natural or nature-based solutions and instead opts for artificial defenses like seawalls.

The 2020 publication, FEMA’s Building Community Resilience with Nature-Based Solutions: A Guide for Local Officials – which supports the interagency National Mitigation Investment Strategy – identifies nature-based solutions as a cost-effective approach to prevent natural hazards from becoming costly disasters. FEMA’s Hazus Program provides risk assessment tools and data for communities interested in analyzing the risk reduction benefits of nature-based solutions. The Hazus Team recently worked with the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force to map coastal flood losses avoided due to coral reef protection across Hawaii (Figure 1), and results from this project can help guide future nature-based mitigation initiatives.

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