Coral Reefs are Critical for Risk Reduction & Adaptation

Indonesia is ranked first in terms of number of population who receive risk reduction benefits from coral reefs”

Jakarta, 14 May 2014 – A new study by an international team of researchers from the University of Bologna, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), U. S. Geological Survey, Stanford University and University of California – Santa Cruz provides the first global synthesis of the contributions of coral reefs to risk reduction and adaptation across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. The study says that coral reefs provide substantial protection against natural hazards by reducing wave energy by an average of 97 percent (studies across all tropical oceans). The reef crest, or shallowest part of the reef where the waves break first, dissipates 86 percent of wave energy on its own. The median cost for building artificial breakwaters is USD $19,791 per meter, compared to $1,290 per meter for coral reef restoration projects.

Published this month in the journal “Nature Communications,” the study indicates that coral reefs can “serve as an effective first line of defense to incoming waves, storms and rising seas,” said Dr. Michael Beck, lead marine scientist of The Nature Conservancy and a co-author of the study. He then added, “200 million people across more than 80 nations are at risk if coral reefs are not protected and restored.” Dr. Filippo Ferrario, lead author from the University of Bologna said “This study illustrates that the restoration and conservation of coral reefs is an important and cost effective solution to reduce risks from coastal hazards and climate change.”  Dr. Fiorenza Micheli of Stanford University then added, “While there are many concerns about the future of corals reefs in the face of climate change, there are still many reasons for optimism about the future of coral reefs particularly if we manage other local stressors such as pollution and development.” 

The study also stated that more than 41 million people in Indonesia have high dependency on coral reefs resources. “With 16% of the world’s coral reefs and approximately 590 hard coral species scattered all across the archipelago, Indonesia has a very important position in marine ecosystem,” said Gondan Renosari, Marine Program Director of TNC Indonesia.  She then added, “Unfortunately, the coral reefs in Indonesia are severely threatened by human factors such as shoreline development and destructive fishing practices.” “This study serves as a strong reminder to our future leaders that putting more effort and attention to green infrastructure that nature has provided us would be far more beneficial than building mega projects to face climate change,” she added.

Today, coastal hazard mitigation and climate adaptation forced countries to conduct major investments in artificial defense structures such as seawalls. In contradiction, the study shows that the restoration of coral reefs for coastal defense may be as low as 1/10 the cost of building artificial breakwaters. Reef defenses can be enhanced in a cost-effective manner through restoration, a key factor in protecting small island nations and regions with limited fiscal resources. “Coral reefs are wonderful natural features that, when healthy, can provide comparable wave reduction benefits to many artificial coastal defenses and adapt to sea-level rise” said Dr. Curt Storlazzi a co-author from USGS. “This research shows that coral reef restoration can be a cost-effective way to decrease the hazards coastal communities face due to the combination of storms and sea-level rise.”

Conservation efforts are most often directed to more remote reefs, however the study suggests there should also be a focus on reefs closer to the people who will directly benefit from reef restoration and management. The study found that there are 197 million people worldwide who can receive risk reduction benefits from coral reefs alone or may have to bear higher costs of disasters if the reefs are degraded. These are people in villages, towns, and cities who live in low, risk prone coastal areas (below 10m elevation) and within 50 km of coral reefs. In terms of number of people who receive risk reduction benefits from coral reefs, the top 15 countries include: 

1. Indonesia, 41 million

2. India, 36 million

3. Philippines, 23 million

4. China, 16 million

5. Vietnam, 9 million

6. Brazil, 8 million

7. United States, 7 million

8. Malaysia, 5 million

9. Sri Lanka, 4 million

10. Taiwan, 3 million

11. Singapore, 3 million

12. Cuba, 3 million

13. Hong Kong, 2 million

14. Tanzania, 2 million

15. Saudi Arabia, 2 million


About TNC

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working in 35 countries around the world to conserve the lands and water on which all life depends. In Indonesia, TNC has been working in conservation partnerships with government, communities and the private sector for more than 20 years, advancing solutions for conservation, natural resources management and climate change for the benefit of people and nature. By leveraging science-based natural resources management models, TNC transform practices and informs policies that will result in the increase of landscapes and seascapes under effective management in Indonesia. For more information please visit

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