Investing in the preservation of coral reefs could bring significant economic benefits

This is the conclusion of a UN study released this week on the economics of coral reefs, at a time when global warming threatens their existence.

New findings released by the United Nations (UN) offer a valid business argument for anyone interested in investing in the protection of coral reefs around the world. The return, according to The Coral Reef Economy study conducted under the UN environmental program, can reach billions of dollars in just a decade.

With a focus on the two largest coral reef areas in the world - the Coral Triangle and the Mesoamerican Reef - the study compared the economic results estimated at both sites until the year 2030. The idea is to have a healthy reef, developed through increased investment in protection and preservation, counteracting the current trend of degraded reefs.

The results of the study, at the height of the International Year of the Reef, show that a move to improve the health of coral reefs from a new decline in the period up to 2030 could generate about 37 billion US dollars in the case of the Triangle and about 35 billion in the case of the Caribbean. According to the UN, the investment would mean a growth in areas like tourism, fishing and coastal development.

Jerker Tamelander, UN's head on coral reef issues, recently said that "investing in coral reefs offers a significant return not only economically but is also important for marine life, and coastal populations relying heavily on healthy corals reefs."

Everyone would win: Man and nature. Coral reefs are exceptionally valuable. Statistical data reveal more than 500 million people in 100 different countries. It is extremely important, the UN says, to protect coastal regions from the increase in extreme weather events. This is the only way to protect the habitats of one quarter of the world's known marine species.

However, these vital ecosystems are being rapidly destroyed as a result of global warming due to climate change, but also to unrestrained overfishing, destructive fishing, ocean acidification and a series of terrestrial activities. The civilizational advance has posed a great risk to the life of coral reefs. It is estimated that the world will already have lost at least one-fifth of the coral reefs and faces the real threat of losing up to 90% of all reefs in the next 30 years. That would be catastrophic, scientists who have studied these phenomena, argue.

Heart and lung of marine ecosystems, the Coral Triangle, located in Oceania - extending to countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and East Timor - is home to 120 million people who depend on its waters for food and survival. The health of this region is vital to the balance of the whole world. The Mesoamerican Reef, located in Central America spreads between Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico and is half the length of its famous Australian counterpart, but in many respects it is more extraordinary, as magazine National Geographic wrote in one of its stories on coral reefs.

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