What is a Reef Worth?
Coral reefs are one of the most spectacular and fragile environments. Covering less than one percent of the ocean floor, they support an estimated 25 percent of all marine life. Even though they are located in the tropics, coral reefs can benefit people and the natural world far beyond their boundaries.
"By one estimate, coral reefs provide economic goods and ecosystem services worth about $375 billion each year to millions of people." (Robert Constanza et al. 1997)
Many countries with coral reefs generate significant portions of their income through tourism. The variety of marine life and protected beaches supported by coral reefs provide an inviting setting for sightseers, sunbathers, snorkelers and scuba divers. For residents of coral reef areas that depend on income from tourism, reef destruction creates a significant loss of employment in the tourism, marine recreation and sport fishing industries.
Coral reef ecosystems are also an important source of protein for millions of people; they support an enormous number of fish species.
Coral reefs save lives. Just like species in the rain forest, reef animals and plants contain medicinal compounds. The most famous of these is AZT, a treatment for people with HIV infections; it derives from a Caribbean reef sponge. Unique compounds from corals have also yielded remedies for cardiovascular diseases, ulcers, leukemia and skin cancer.
What might the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System be worth to México?
Edited from International Coral Reef Information Network (ICRIN) Fact Sheet