In 1999, two Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) were established off the coast of  Upolu, Samoa. Since then we have seen major changes in sea level rise, sea surface temperature, and ocean pH, all of which contribute to the fatality of corals. This year 83 km of coral cover was sampled off the coasts of Upolu. Out of all the areas sampled, the highest coral cover was found within these MPA’s! 

Status of coral reefs of Upolu (Independent State of Samoa) in the South West Pacific and recommendations to promote resilience and recovery of coastal ecosystems. Maren Ziegler et al. 2018.

In order to manage the moving and changing oceans, our policy has to be flexible. Dynamic ocean management is a tactic that merges ecology with economics and social science to better protect the oceans over a changing range of space and time. 

Dynamic ocean management: Integrating scientific and technological capacity with law, policy and management. Hobday et al. 2014.

Most economic assessments only look at the protection provided to coastal areas by artificial defenses such as seawalls. However, a recent assessment looked at the protection provided by natural reef defenses. The assessment found that coral reefs in Hawaii and Florida prevent flooding to more than 18,000 individuals (which would cost $1.805 billion USD in damages) every single year!

Rigorously valuing the role of U.S. coral reefs in coastal hazard risk reduction. USGS. Storlazzi et al. 2019.

Photo by Ellie Jones

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