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Rigorously valuing the role of coral reefs in coastal protection: An example from Maui, Hawaii, U.S.A.

June 28, 2017

The degradation of coastal habitats, particularly coral reefs, raises risks by exposing communities to flooding hazards.
The protective services of these natural defenses are not assessed in the same rigorous, economic terms as artificial
defenses such as seawalls, and therefore often not considered in decision-making. Here we present a new methodology
that combines economic, ecological, and engineering tools to provide a rigorous financial valuation of the coastal
protection benefits of coral reefs off Maui, Hawaii, USA. We follow risk-based valuation guidelines to quantitatively
estimate the risk reduction benefits from coral reefs in terms of annual expected benefits in economic terms. Our
ultimate goal is to identify how, where, and when coral reefs provide the most flood reduction benefits under current
and future climates to inform reef conservation and management priorities.