Rigorously Valuing the Impact of Projected Coral Reef Degradation on Coastal Hazard Risk in Florida

Open-File Report 2021-1055
Prepared in cooperation with the University of California, Santa Cruz
By: , and 


  • Document: Report (6.5 MB pdf)
  • Related Works:
    • Open-File Report 2021-1054 - Rigorously Valuing the Potential Coastal Hazard Risk Reduction Provided by Coral Reef Restoration in Florida and Puerto Rico
    • Open-File Report 2021-1056 - Rigorously Valuing the Impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on Coastal Hazard Risk in Florida and Puerto Rico
  • Data Release: Data Release - Projected flooding extents and depths based on 10-, 50-, 100-, and 500-year wave-energy return periods for the State of Florida with and without projected coral reef degradation
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The degradation of coastal habitats, particularly coral reefs, raises risks by increasing the exposure of coastal communities to flooding hazards. In the United States, the physical protective services provided by coral reefs were recently assessed, in social and economic terms, with the annual protection provided by U.S. coral reefs off the coast of the State of Florida estimated to be more than 5,600 people and $675 million (2010 U.S. dollars). Degradation of coral reef ecosystems over the past several decades and during tropical storm events has caused regional-scale erosion of the shallow seafloor that serves as a protective barrier against coastal hazards along Southeast Florida, increasing risks to coastal populations. Here we combine engineering, ecologic, geospatial, social, and economic data and tools to provide a rigorous valuation of the increased hazard faced by Florida’s reef-fronted coastal communities because of the projected degradation of its adjacent coral reefs. We followed risk-based valuation approaches to map flood zones at 10-square-meter resolution along all 430 kilometers of Florida’s reef-lined shorelines for both the current and projected future coral reef conditions. We quantified the coastal flood risk increase caused by coral reef degradation using the latest information from the U.S. Census Bureau, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Bureau of Economic Analysis for return-interval storm events. Using the damages associated with each storm probability, we also calculated the change in annual expected damages, a measure of the annual protection lost because of projected coral reef degradation. We found that degradation of the coral reefs off Florida increases future risks significantly. In particular, we estimated the protection lost by Florida’s coral reefs from projected coral reef degradation will result in:

  • Increased flooding to more than 8.77 square kilometers (3.39 square miles) of land annually;
  • Increased flooding affecting more than 7,300 people annually;
  • Increased direct damages of more than $385.4 million to more than 1,400 buildings annually; and
  • Increased indirect damages to more $438.1 million in economic activity owing to housing and business damage annually.

Thus, the annual value of increased flood risk caused by the projected degradation of Florida’s coral reefs is more than 7,300 people and $823.6 million (2010 U.S. dollars). These data provide stakeholders and decision makers with a spatially explicit, rigorous valuation of how, where, and when degradation of Florida’s coral reefs will decrease critical coastal storm flood reduction benefits. These results help identify areas where reef management, recovery, and restoration could potentially help reduce the risk to, and increase the resiliency of, Florida’s coastal communities.

Suggested Citation

Storlazzi, C.D., Reguero, B.G., Yates, K.K., Cumming, K.A., Cole, A.D., Shope, J.B., Gaido L., C., Zawada, D.G., Arsenault, S.R., Fehr, Z.W., Nickel, B.A., and Beck, M.W., 2021, Rigorously valuing the impact of projected coral reef degradation on coastal hazard risk in Florida: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2021–1055, 27 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20211055.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract  
  • Introduction  
  • Methodology  
  • Results  
  • Conclusions  
  • Acknowledgements  
  • References Cited  
  • Additional Digital Information  
  • Direct Contact Information  
  • Appendix 1. SWAN Model Settings
  • Appendix 2. SWAN Model Grid Information
  • Appendix 3. Benthic Habitat and Shoreline Datasets
  • Appendix 4. Cross-shore XBeach Transects  
  • Appendix 5. Bathymetric Datasets  
  • Appendix 6. XBeach Model Settings
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Rigorously valuing the impact of projected coral reef degradation on coastal hazard risk in Florida
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2021-1055
DOI 10.3133/ofr20211055
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description Report: vi, 27 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State Florida
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details