Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Hurricane-Induced Damage to Coral Reefs

As part of the U.S. Federal government’s recovery and restoration efforts, starting in 2017, NOAA conducted surveys to assess the damage to Florida and Puerto Rico’s coral reefs (fig. 1). To better understanding the role that coral reefs play in reducing the risk to, and increasing the resilience of, reef-lined coastal communities, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are undertaking an effort to assess and quantify, in social and economic terms, how the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria to the coral reefs off Florida and Puerto Rico may have increased the threats to, and reduced the resiliency of, their coastal communities.   

Orbicella frankshi
Figure 1. Underwater photograph of a large Orbicella franksi colony dislodged along the Florida Reef Track. (NOAA.)

Engineering, ecologic, social, and economic tools were combined to provide a quantitative valuation of the reduction in coastal protection benefits caused by the 2017 hurricanes’ damage to the coral reefs off the State of Florida and the Territory of Puerto Rico, USA. The goal of this effort was to identify how, where, and when hurricane-induced damage to coral reefs decreased coastal flood reduction benefits socially and economically (fig. 2). 

Hurricane damage to coral reefs
Figure 2. Example increase in coastal flooding extent and the annual cost of flood damage to buildings caused by hurricane-induced damage to the coral reefs off Key West, Florida, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Credit: USGS. Public domain.)

This analysis follows a risk quantification valuation framework to estimate the risk reduction benefits from coral reefs and provide annual expected benefits in social and economic terms ( This mapping represents a first unique and innovative effort to rigorous quantify the increase in coastal hazard risk caused by hurricane-induced storm damage to coral reefs, based on high resolution flooding modeling and state of art damage modeling and calculations based on approaches used by FEMA. The methods follow a sequence of steps (fig. 3) that integrate physics-based hydrodynamic modeling, quantitative geospatial modeling, and social and economic analyses to quantify the hazard, the role of hurricane-induced damage to coral reefs in increasing coastal flooding, and the economic and social consequences. 


coastal flooding hazard risk schematic
Figure 3. Schematic of methodology used to evaluate the increase in coastal flooding hazard risk due to hurricane-induced damage to coral reefs. Modified after Storlazzi and others (2019). 

All of these data will be made available on our Coastal Change Hazards web portal for web viewing and download to provide actionable information to homeowners, coastal communities, and managers of public and private properties to improve resiliency for storm-induced coastal hazards.



Return to Vulnerability Assessment of Coral Reefs

Return to Storm-induced Coastal Hazard Assessment for Coral Reef Coasts

Return to Assessment of Coastal Impacts and Hazards in Florida and Georgia